By Tyler Stotsky
The Lake Erie baseball team held their annual Meet the Team Night on Saturday February 7th advance of the open of the Storm's 2015 season. The event, along with a spaghetti dinner, was held at the Hungarian Culture Club in Fairport Harbor, Ohio.
The seven Storm seniors were featured during the event as they each spoke about their time as a member of the Green and White. The seven seniors are RHP Brandon Grunda, LHP Josh Porter, LHP Heath Kelley, RHP Brad Raley, RHP Russ Hogue, OF Aaron Lindgren, and SS Sean Mathews.
Hogue spoke about the different sayings that the Storm has had for each season. The first year of the senior class included the motto. "We're on the Map," the second year was "Press On," last season was "Start to Finish," and this season's motto is "Believe It."
"The mottos of the past years show a functional family. This team has provided a family feel for me that has not been there since my dad passed away when I was 13," said Hogue as he shared his belief of the Storm club.
Kelley said, "With any team, you get the most strength from the older guys-the seniors. We [the senior class] are so strong due to the fact that we had the honor of knowing Reid Rizzo". Rizzo was a member of the Storm baseball team before his passing in June 2012. Kelley went on to recite a reading that talked about Rizzo's impact on everyone and his ability to overcome obstacles and show courage.
Mathews told the crowd at the event that, "We have become a tight-knit group through everything and we have really bonded as a team".
Porter spoke about the program that head coach Brian McGee has put into place over the years. "The program that McGee has put in place has turned everyone into men. This is much bigger than baseball".
McGee was very taken back by the messages that his seniors shared that night, "I am so very proud of the character, courage, and passion all my seniors showed by getting up there and sharing some very personal beliefs. It was encouraging to me as a coach and mentor to hear them speak of the message and culture I have tried to build around them has really hit home for them".
When asked about the upcoming season, McGee related to the new slogan for the year. "We have a season slogan here every year, and with this particular season ahead I would just simply like to tell my guys I am all in....BELIEVE IT!"
The Storm is coming off a historic season in which they finished third in the GLIAC regular season standings, second in the GLIAC Tournament and qualified for the NCAA Regionals for the first time in school history. Lake Erie finished the 2014 season with a record of 32-22 overall and 22-11 in the GLIAC.
Offensively as a team, the Storm hit for a .258 average with 77 doubles, eight triples and 27 longballs with 236 runs batted in. The pitching staff put up a 4.17 earned run average in 417 innings pitched. The staff struck out 276 batters as a whole.
Last year, the Storm was led offensively by outfielder Lucas Raley. Raley hit .353 in his freshman campaign with 65 hits, nine homeruns, 46 RBI in 54 games. He was named GLIAC Freshman of the Year as well as to the ABCA and D2SIDA All-Midwest Region Teams.
On the pitching side, Heath Kelley led the Storm rotation with a 2.85 ERA in 15 games (11 starts). He finished with a record of 3-2 in 66.1 innings pitched.