Canfield is 5-1 in the loop (12-6 overall) after beating Beaver Local and splitting a pair of games with Poland. The continuation of a previously suspended game with Howland is set for May 13 with the winner of that contest taking league control. The Cardinals have a 3-1 lead as that game enters the second inning. If the Canfield kids continue to play as solidly as they have recently then finishing off the Tigers may not prove to be difficult.
Canfield clobbered Beaver Local, 9-2 in its first league game last week behind the hard hitting of Ben Angelo who smacked three safeties and had two RBIs. Pitcher Michael Wittman whiffed seven Beaver batters en route to earning his third win of the year.
Red Tier involvement was interrupted last Monday when the Cardinals entertained Ursuline at Cene Park. A six-run second inning enabled Canfield to clobber the Irish, 13-1. Wittman was wonderful at the plate this time with two hits and three ribbies. Mike Werner also had two hits as did Brock McGivern.
Angelo came back on May 4 to pester Poland with two more hits, an RBI and a run. Tim Cheslik chipped in with two hits and a run of his own. Alas, Canfield fell to its archrival, 9-5. Despite the lopsided loss, Canfield head coach Matt Koenig called out some positives.
“We struggled,” said the coach, “but we made a game of it. We were on the verge of getting mercy ruled, but stayed in the game.”
Koenig’s kids got their chance for revenge against their nemesis one day later at home. The Cardinals avenged their first conference loss with a thrilling 4-3 victory. Starting pitcher Brad Smith threw shutout ball for Canfield for 6 2/3 innings, but ran into trouble with the game on the line. Trailing 2-0 in the top of the seventh, Poland loaded the bases against Smith who it seemed threw as many pitches in the last inning as he had all game. A bases-loaded walk put Poland on the scoreboard. At that time, Koenig had to make a decision he didn’t really want to make.
“I had to take (Smith) out,” said Koenig. “I like when you have a senior like Smith succeed in big situations, but he just ran out of gas. It was the first time he pitched that long this season because of the weather. Under normal circumstances he would have been OK.”
Coach Koenig brought in reliever Tony Mehle, who was coming off a win against Ursuline, and he was greeted by a two-run single that gave the visitors a 3-2 lead heading into the home half of the frame. Angelo started the bottom of the seventh with a walk. McGivern put down a perfect bunt and, thanks to a Poland error, Canfield had runners on the corners. Smith then reached on an error scoring Angelo to tie the game. After another perfectly placed bunt by Anthony Ross loaded the bases, a sacrifice fly by Josh Midgley gave the Cardinals their fifth Red Tier win. The incredible execution by the Cardinals in that last inning kept Koenig gleaming all weekend.
“I’m happy with the way we played (in the seventh inning against Poland),” he shouted. “We made things happen. We had two beautiful bunts. It was very exciting.”
Making things even more exciting was that the win came in front of huge throng of Canfield alumni, backers and fans. That group was on hand to witness the dedication of the school’s field to former head coach Phil Bova. Bova basically began the baseball program at Canfield and the naming of the field in his honor was well received.
“We had lots of people watching so it was special,” Koenig exclaimed. “Being able to beat our biggest rival really made it a special day.”
Helping to make the day even extra special was a $50,000 donation from ex-Cardinal player, and current owner of Simon Roofing, Anthony Vross. Vross’ generosity will be felt every time a Cardinal player puts his spikes on the newly dedicated diamond.
“(With the donation) we were able to put a brick wall from dugout to dugout,” said Koenig. “We also put up a new backstop. We are trying to become one of the best complexes in the state so we thank Anthony Vross.”
Koenig may not be thanking anyone associated with the Cleveland Indians in the near future however. Canfield was supposed to play a pair of games at Progressive Field over this past weekend, but unforeseen circumstances urged the Progressive Field people to pull the plug on the Cardinals’ big league trip.
“The boys were really bummed out,” said Koenig dejectedly. “We had a lot of people going up to watch us so it was too bad.”
There is a chance that Canfield will play at Progressive on May 16. There is also a chance that the Cards will make up a game against Beaver Local this week. Before Canfield continues its game with Howland on Friday, the top-seeded Cardinals will play the winner of Hubbard and Poland in the first round of the Division II state tournament on Thursday, May 12 in Struthers. If the Redbirds host the Bulldogs it will be the third time in a week that these two rivals will meet. With the stakes at their highest in the playoffs, that fact does not sit well with coach Koenig.
“It would be tough on both of us if we played,” he said sternly. “(Poland) is playing much better now. (The game) would be a good one.”
Photos by J.T. Whitehouse, Town Crier
Cardinal pitcher Brad Smith winds up to send a power ball over the plate to take out another batter during the May 5 meeting with the Poland Bulldogs on the newly dedicated Bova Field in Canfield.