There was no doubt that the Canfield baseball team was in need of a huge pick-me-up heading into its contest with Niles, on Thursday, April 18.
Canfield's boys had lost its previous four games and had only one win so far this season inside the All American Conference. The only way for Canfield to make an upward move was to get solid starting pitching. In two losses to Fitch earlier in the week, the Cardinal pitching staff surrendered 21 total runs. Canfield's hurlers also allowed 14 runs in a loss to Cleveland St. Ignatius and 13 more in a setback to West Branch. Thankfully, the Cardinals got the type of performance it was seeking out of starter Jimmy Leone. The junior worked a five inning complete game and pitched with confidence, as he was the beneficiary of 18 runs in an 18-2 Canfield rout.
"It felt good to get that win," said a relieved Canfield head coach Matt Koenig afterwards. "We played with a lot of fire and enthusiasm."
One Cardinal who was very enthusiastic the entire day was senior outfielder Derek Turocy. Earlier on that Thursday, Turocy agreed to play baseball at Lake Erie College next year. The senior then went out and celebrated his decision by going 2-4 with four RBI and three runs. One of Turocy's two hits was a grand slam and he came back to hit another homer a couple days later capping an enormous week for him both on and off the diamond.
"It was a big day for Derek (on Thursday)," Koenig said. "He is starting to relax and settle in for us."
Koenig's club really settled in at Niles after it scored nine runs in the second inning. A lot of those runs were aided by less than desirable defense by the home team. In the fourth inning, Canfield came back and duplicated that run output from the second stanza spurred by a Colton Crissman RBI double and Turocy's slam.
The win over the Red Dragons must have energized the heretofore-lethargic Cardinals because they returned to the field on Saturday and upended Hudson on the road, 5-2. Making that win more impressive was the fact that Hudson was 11-0 heading into last Saturday's showdown. The reason for Canfield's upset was another excellent hurling exhibition this time from senior Tony Velasquez. Velasquez vanquished the Hudson hitters over seven innings to obtain the complete game victory. Perhaps the pair of pitching performances by Leone and Velasquez can put some juice back into the Canfield club.
"We will focus on these two games," Koenig announced. "Hopefully it will get us going for the rest of the year. The kids know we have potential. We just need to get a little more consistent."
Consistency was shown in the home-in-home losses to Fitch, but unfortunately it was consistent bad play. Canfield was clobbered at home by the Falcons 10-2 on April 15 then lost a heartbreaker the next afternoon in Austintown, 11-10. Making things worse in that second loss was the fact that Canfield actually led the game 5-0 after one inning and 9-4 later before blowing the five-run advantage.
"We played pretty well against Fitch on Tuesday," Koenig said, "but couldn't keep the lead. We played well offensively."
Leone did the most offensively in the loss with a triple, a double and five ribbies. Tommy Ciccolelli also knocked in a couple runs.
Although Canfield went just 2-3 over a five game stretch, coach Koenig will be focusing more on what happened at the end of the week than what transpired last Monday and Tuesday.
"It was a big week for us and it ended in great fashion," said the coach a few moments after the win at Hudson. "For us to beat Hudson was a huge stepping stone. We've put some things together, but we're also still trying to figure some things out."
The coach hopes to have even more figured out before taking part in a humongous home-in-home series with arch rival Poland this week.