Nobody will ever claim that the 2011 version of the Canfield baseball team was full of quitters.
That was never more evident than in the Division II regional semifinal where the Cardinals fought ruthlessly but was not able to overtake Mentor Lake Catholic. The Cardinals were outclawed by the Cougars, 9-6 on May 27 in Hudson to end their season with a 15-9 record.
“We played pretty well for the most part,” said Canfield head coach Matt Koenig following the team’s annual season ending banquet on May 31. “Our pitching struggled and that hurt us.”
Three Canfield hurlers were hurt by a nine run, 12-hit explosion by the Mentor kids. In spite of the Cougar offense, the Cardinals would keep fighting and almost pulled out a thrilling come-from-behind victory. Lake Catholic put up a run in the top of the second inning to take an early lead then allowed Canfield to climb ahead with two runs in the bottom of the third. Lake Catholic would make it 4-2 in the top of the fourth, but the Cardinals were able to tie it one half inning later. Once again the Cougars retook the lead in the top of the fifth only to watch Canfield place its third two-run inning of the game on the scoreboard in the bottom of the fifth. A two-run sixth by the Cougars finally ended all hope of the Cardinals advancing in the regionals.
“We battled all night,” Koenig said. “We tied it after blowing (2-1) lead, but we came up short.”
Koenig’s club may have come up short of a long run in the Division II tournament, but it met its goal for the regular season. For the eighth straight year the Cardinals won a conference championship. That feat may have become commonplace in Canfield, but it never gets old.
“(Winning eight straight conference championships) is a great accomplishment,” said Koenig proudly. “In Canfield we have something to live up to every year. We had some holes to fill after losing twelve seniors from last year and we were scrappy all year. My hat off to these kids.”
Hats were also doffed to the Cardinals who were rewarded for their play at the banquet last week. Junior Ben Angelo had a huge double in the semifinal loss and was a leader at the top of Koenig’s batting order all season. For those accomplishments Angelo was awarded Canfield’s offensive MVP. Senior Brad Smith was sensational on the slope all season so he was given pitching MVP. Senior middle infielder Brock McGivern had a key hit and run scored against Lake Catholic, but it was with the glove where McGivern really made his mark for four seasons. That is why Brock brought the defensive MVP award home with him last Tuesday evening. Juniors Anthony Ross and Michael Wittman joined the above mentioned trio as members of the All American Conference Red Tier 1st team. Senior Josh Midgely made Red Tier honorable mention. Senior outfielders Tim Cheslik and Mike Werner were bestowed coach’s awards as well.
“All of those kids played really well and were deserving of the recognition,” Koenig claimed.
The best thing for Koenig is that he will have many of those kids returning in 2012. A total of nine juniors got varsity game experience and the Cardinals were able to letter eleven players for the first time ever. Inexperience may have been a burden on the Cards before this season, but next year Canfield’s boys will be full of varsity familiarity.
“We have a good core coming back,” said an elated Koenig. “Going into 2012 we will have a confidence we didn’t have at the beginning of this year. Hopefully we can get the kids to mesh.”
Not only will Canfield have a large group of upperclassmen next spring, but it will also have the luxury of suiting up some younger kids who have already proven to be successful on the diamond.
“Our JV team went 10-2 this year and the freshmen went 12-1,” Koenig explained excitedly. “We will have to find room for these kids.”
With all of that returning and new talent, the room the Canfield baseball team should once again find itself in next May is the penthouse of the All American Red Tier.