One of the goals of the Cardinal Mooney baseball team this year was to win a Division II district championship.
The Cardinals were one win away from reaching that achievement a year ago, but when they subdued Struthers 12-0 on May 21, this year's district crown was bestowed upon them. The next mountain Mooney was looking to climb was the regional round that was played last week in Hudson. Mooney won its ninth game in 10 tries when it doubled-up Canton South, 8-4 in the regional semifinal on May 30, so it had plenty of momentum heading into the regional championship against Archbishop Hoban. Unfortunately, the highly rated Hoban club had its way in Hudson and ended Mooney's dream of a state Final Four appearance last Friday. Hoban hammered the Cardinals 14-4, halting the home team's campaign with a 21-8 mark. Although his team couldn't capture two wins in the regionals, the two it took in the district round had Mooney head coach Al Franceschelli feeling good.
"One of our goals was to improve upon last year's finish and we did just that," said Franceschelli to reporters after the loss to Hoban.
One reason why the Cardinals were able to eclipse last season's success was their airtight defense. Apparently that defense rested for Mooney last weekend because it uncharacteristically committed six errors in the title tilt. Four of those six miscues came in the sixth inning when, not coincidentally, Hoban did its biggest damage of the day. With the score tied 4-4 and, chances for a Cardinal regional championship still high, the Knights crowned the Cardinals for seven runs to take an 11-4 lead. Hoban tacked on three more tallies in the top of the seventh, but Mooney's morale was already broken by then. Coach Franceschelli blamed the bad baseball in the sixth for his boys' demise.
"Any time you give a team extra outs you're going to pay," he admitted to reporters. "We paid (on Friday) against a good team."
Franceschelli's fellas proved they were just as good as their opponent for five innings. After giving up two runs in the top of the first, Mooney made it 2-1 when Drew Delsignore doubled, Drew Beck reached base on an error and Delsignore scored on a double steal. The Knights scored a couple more runs in the top of the second stanza, but once again the Cardinals climbed back with three runs in the third. Ryan Megysi's hit highlighted that three-run rally that tied the score at 4-4. That would be the final time that Mooney was in the ballgame.
While the Cardinals gave up a big inning to get bumped out of the regionals, they were the ones enjoying a huge outburst a day earlier in the semis. Mooney was losing 2-1 to Canton South last Thursday when it scored seven times in the home half of the fifth. Usually whenever the Cardinals collected an absurd amount of runs this year, it was due to extra base hits. That wasn't the case in the fifth inning against the Canton kids when Mooney's order batted around and small-balled South into submission. Harrison Wagner led off with a single then advanced to second on a wild pitch. Christian Lowery bunted and reached base on an error. Wagner was able to score on that play. Megysi also bunted and reached base and with two on Gino DiVincenzo scored Lowery on a sac fly. After DiVincenzo's RBI, the Cardinals ran the Wildcats off the diamond with six straight hits. Jon Saadey singled, Delsignore doubled, then Beck, Dom Dundee, Dallas Martin and Wagner all singled. Mooney took an 8-2 lead and secured its spot in the regional final.
Senior Kane Durkin picked up the decision against South when he pitched five plus innings and struck out five. He finished the season and his high school career with a 6-1 record. Also graduating will be his catcher Delsignore, Dundee and Mike Stash.
The only silver lining for the scarlet and gold is that a host of kids who helped shape Franceschelli's lineup will be returning next spring. Martin, who also homered in the semifinal, Wagner, Beck, Megysi, Lowery and DiVincenzo will be six of the eight juniors who will become senior leaders next season. Saadey, who had a big day versus Canton South, will only be a junior. So when coach Franceschelli formulates his goals for 2014, he may want to include the elusive regional championship as the number one priority.