It has always been said that one can learn by his or her mistakes.
That is exactly what Canfield head baseball coach Matt Koenig wanted his kids to believe after they fell to Hubbard 4-2 in their season and home opener on March 30.
“The loss to Hubbard was heartbreaking,” said Koenig from Myrtle Beach where his team was on the eve of starting an Easter break tournament. “I think we gained from that loss.”
Koenig’s Cardinals had everything to gain when they scored a pair of runs in the bottom of the second inning to take a 2-1 lead. Canfield lost that lead, however, when the visitors pushed across a run in the top of the sixth. The game would remain tied and head to an extra inning. That is when Hubbard scored two times to get the needed margin of victory.
Joe Hoelzel gave up both of those runs to become the hard-luck loser. Hoelzel gutted it out over seven plus innings on the mound and was a strikeout machine during that span.
“Hoelzel pitched a great game with 10 strikeouts,” mentioned Koenig.
Junior Brad Smith was summoned to clean up the eighth inning and did so in grand fashion by striking out the side.
“Smith striking out the side in the eighth kept us in the ballgame,” said Koenig.
Justen Vrabel had two hits including a double for Canfield and Nick Benson also smacked a double.
The Canfield kids could have hung their heads after that tough opening defeat, but instead they did indeed learn from that first contest and came back strong against Boardman the following day winning, 7-6.
“We were excited to get back on the field (after losing the opener) and this time we pulled out a tough game,” Koenig said happily. “We had some clutch hitting versus Boardman.”
Getting the biggest hit in the clutch for the Cardinals was senior Brett Cooper who hit a ball that was lost by the Boardman outfielder. That Spartans’ loss was Cooper’s gain as the ball fell in the outfield, rolled to the fence and by the time it was retrieved, Cooper had rounded the bases for a go-ahead two-run inside-the-park homerun.
When the Cardinals took the field again last Thursday against Struthers it was near perfect pitching that made it a more comfortable outcome. Senior Kyle Kessner tossed a two-hitter while striking out seven as Canfield inflicted the 10-run rule on the Wildcats to improve to 2-1 on the young season.
While it was good to see veteran names like Kessner, Cooper, Hoelzel and Vrabel help Canfield start the year above .500, Koenig has been rotating some younger players like Smith, Benson and Anthony Ross in his lineup. The results have pleased Koenig.
“We need the seniors to still provide leadership,” said the coach, “but we’ve been starting some of the younger players and they are leaving a good taste in our mouth.”
Although Koenig is not opposed to keep using multiple lineups (he has used three different ones in three games) he would like to see one position manned by one player.
“We have used three different catchers in Ross, Smith and Tim Calhoun,” Koenig explained. “All three want the job. When it’s their turn they need to step up. I would like one of those three to take hold of the job.”
Perhaps it will take a trip down south to settle the catching battle. The Cardinals have invaded Myrtle Beach and started playing in a tournament April 6. That Monday match was with a South Carolina team that has won 15 state championships. Another tilt with a South Carolina school was set for Tuesday then a game against a visitor from New York was set for Wednesday.
“We will be playing some really good teams down here,” said Koenig from Myrtle.
After those three days, a winner/loser bracket was set up with the best teams vying for the tournament championship on Friday. The Canfield boys were expected to be home late Saturday night.