The third time was certainly not the charm for the Fitch baseball team.
Two years in a row, the Falcons' season was ended by Howland in the Division I state tournament. Fitch had another chance for revenge on May 10 in Howland, but once again the Tigers took the sectional crown. The Tigers used an early offensive spurt then held on to advance in the tournament with a 7-6 victory. Fitch's season ended with a pedestrian 15-12 record.
After the Falcons were retired in the top of the first, Howland hit Fitch starter Austin Cooper hard in the home half of that frame and scored four runs. Another tally by the Tigers in the third sent Cooper to the showers and gave the home team a 5-0 advantage. Much to the Fitch kids' credit, however, they never got down and never gave up on winning the game. The Falcons would score runs in the fourth, fifth and sixth innings to keep things close. In fact, an RBI single by Fitch's Kevin Sierra that scored Luke Peterson pulled the Falcons to within one run of tying the game in the sixth stanza. Unfortunately, the Falcons were grounded by a one, two, three seventh inning by Howland relief pitcher Kyle Hickman that ended the affair.
Sierra ended up with two hits and an RBI in a losing cause for the Falcons. Logan Kane collected a pair of hits as well. Scott Pierce had a double and a single. Zach Miller, Anthony Paris and Shane Vitullo all smashed doubles for the Falcons.
Fitch did pick up one more exciting win this season before bowing out of the sectionals last Thursday. On May 9 in Austintown, the Falcons got the playoffs started positively by eliminating East 13-0. Fitch got all the runs it needed in the bottom of the first when it pounded the Panthers for nine runs. A run in the second and three more in the third turned the contest into a Mercy Rule victory for the Falcons. Kane pummeled the Panthers with a triple and three RBIs. Phil Socha went two-for-two with a double and had two ribbies. Miller managed two RBIs as well.
Ron Sayers was the winning pitcher putting the Panthers in a cage with just one hit. He threw all five innings for a complete game triumph.
Sayers is just one of the underclassmen that was a bright spot for the Falcons in 2012. At some points in the season head coach Wally Ford employed as many as six sophomores in his starting lineup. That entire group, as well as a few talented juniors, picked up vast varsity knowledge, which will lift the Falcons next spring. Cooper, Pierce, Sayers and Alex DiFrancesco all saw significant time on the hill so Ford will have a nice core of starters returning. Junior catcher Zarek Bell was a mainstay in the middle of the order and behind the plate and will be looked upon as a leader in 2013. Centerfielder Sierra will also be a senior and will be counted on to continue to cause havoc from the top of the order. Kevin's younger brother Alex should return to work his magic in the middle infield as will Pierce at shortstop. Miller and Vitullo are two other tenth-graders who clubbed the ball authoritatively in 2012 and will be back in important lineup positions next season. Socha's role should increase with another year under his belt too.
With all of the excitement of having such a solid group of returnees, there is sadness in the fact that a quartet of quality seniors played their final games as Falcons last week. Kane will be missed both at first base and in the hear of the batting order. Paris has been a mainstay for three years. Scott Sympson and Marcus Dodson also contributed at various times this spring.
On the bright side, only losing four players to graduation means there are plenty of players to choose from who have gained incredible experience. If all of those kids continue to ascend in their maturity then there is little worry that the Falcons can contend for a sectional crown next year. About the only thing the Fitch kids need to worry about is a fourth consecutive encounter with Howland in the tournament. Yet, with all of the talent at coach Ford's fingertips, it may actually be the Tigers who are doing the worrying.