Last season, the Canfield baseball team had a great opportunity to play at Progressive Field in Cleveland, but bad weather postponed that event.
The Cardinals had that same chance again this year and, although it was a bit chilly, the skies stayed clear for Canfield's clash with Division I power Kenston on April 21. It was insignificant that the match ended up as a suspended game with a tied score, playing in a major league stadium left a lifelong impression of the Cardinals.
"What a great experience," said Canfield head coach Matt Koenig. "The boys really enjoyed it. Unfortunately the game got suspended."
Koenig was able to take 21 players to the home of the Indians and 17 of those kids were able to play in the game. The Cardinals were even allowed to hit in the hallowed halls of the arena formally known as "The Jake" in the indoor batting cages. That special batting practice must have helped the Canfield kids because they scored 14 runs in their subsequent two games last week. Unfortunately, they were only able to come up with one win in those two games. Canfield lost to conference rival Howland, 9-8 on April 24, but bounced back to beat Boardman, 6-0 one day later. A game against Massillon Jackson on Saturday was suspended due to rain in the ninth inning. Despite a 1-1-1 record, coach Koenig was pleased his team had good showings against good competition.
"Games like these will help us come (state) tournament time," said Koenig. "All the teams we played this week were Division I teams."
Canfield pitcher Derek Turocy proved he was not afraid of facing a Division I foe on the hill when he blanked Boardman over six innings. Turocy improved his season record to 4-0 giving up just three hits while striking out four. Joe Tuchek paced the Canfield attack with two hits and an RBI. Anthony Ross rapped a double against Boardman.
The Cardinals took the lead early versus the Spartans and kept that lead throughout the game en route to a comfortable win. That was not the case the day before against the tough Tigers. Howland fell behind 5-2 as the Cardinals came out swinging the bats forcefully. A homerun by Howland and four errors and eight walks by Canfield pushed the Tigers ahead in the end and kept Canfield from gaining ground in the All American Conference Red Tier. Ross had three hits, as did Colton Crissman. Tuchek had a pair of hits and an RBI as part of Canfield's 11-hit output. All of the hitting was wonderful for coach Koenig to watch, but seeing his team blow a nice lead has left him concerned.
"We had a lead in the seventh inning versus Kenston, a lead against Howland and a lead in the seventh against Jackson," complained Koenig. "We were in a position to win those games, now we have to learn how to win."
Koenig's club has won 11 games so far this year so the season is still moving on successfully. With a 5-1 conference record, Canfield is sitting in the catbird's seat, but with games left to play with Fitch, Niles and Howland the league title has not been sewn up yet. The blown lead last week to the Tigers surely didn't help. That's why Koenig is circling the pending rematch with Howland on his schedule.
"If we take care of business the game versus Howland could be for all the marbles," said Koenig excitedly.
Those marbles are the one's in the crown worn by the Red Tier champion, but bigger marbles await Canfield in the Division II state tournament. Although they don't have as many wins as other schools in their region the Cardinals were able to pull the number one seed last Sunday due to their grueling schedule.
"We haven't played any Division III or Division IV schools this season," explained Koenig proudly. "When people see our record against Division I and Division II schools it is impressive."
The Cardinals will get the chance to impress those tournament officials on the field on May 11 when they play the winner of Southeast and Lakeview.