On April 10, Canfield's baseball team lost its first game of the season to archrival Poland, but that setback couldn't quell the enthusiasm of this senior laden squad.
The Cardinals have started this season 4-1 (2-1 in the All American Conference), which has put head coach Matt Koenig in a great mood as his team prepared for a trip to Myrtle Beach.
''We had a couple of nice wins to start the season,'' said Koenig on the eve of the Mingo Bay Classic. ''We're playing pretty good right now.''
Canfield's season started with back-to-back victories over Warren Harding 13-3 and 8-0. Senior pitcher Jimmy Leone picked up his first win of the season on the mound.
Three days after handling Harding, the Cardinals headed to Ashtabula to meet a very talented Edgewood ball club. A two-run third inning by Canfield was enough to back senior starter Alec Hammond in a 3-1 triumph. Hammond worked into the fifth to pick up the win. Fellow senior Jake Cole and junior Joe Billec both put up a zero in their innings of relief. Senior Alec Buchenic belted a triple to pace the offense.
''It was a great game for us against Ashtabula Edgewood,'' said Koenig. ''To go down there and pick up a win is great.''
Koenig's boys were great again April 9 when they took a bus ride to North Canton Hoover. Strong pitching from Leone and Edmond Pilolli and some clutch hitting from Nick Luchansky and Colton Crissman enabled the Cardinals to edge the Vikings 4-3. Leone worked six innings to pick up his second win on the season. Pilolli pitched the seventh to secure his second save. Senior Luchansky lashed two hits, including a double, and had three RBI. Crissman got his senior season rolling with an RBI single. Beating a team with the tradition that Hoover has on its home field is certainly a win that Coach Koenig will reflect upon when this season concludes.
''(Hoover) is a very good program,'' said Koenig. ''Leone and then Pilolli pitched great. We were riding high after that win.''
That awesome feeling and Canfield's four game season starting win streak was then snapped at Poland 8-2. The Bulldogs came out bombing the baseball and scored four runs in the bottom of the first inning. That was more than enough for Poland hurler Pat Carlozzi who silenced Canfield's bats for six shutout innings. He scattered six hits and struck out six as well. Not only did Carlozzi leave a lasting impression on the Cardinals' hitters, he received some solid accolades from the coach as well.
''(Poland) put it on us,'' Koenig said. Their pitcher mixed his pitches well and kept us off balance all night. He did a good job. We can all learn from that loss though.''
The most important thing Koenig and his staff had to learn after the Poland game were the directions to South Carolina. The Mingo Bay Classic is a prestigious tournament that hosts some of the best teams from the eastern part of the U.S. Unfortunately for a school like Canfield, a lot of those outfits are from the southeast meaning they have had a lot more opportunities to take the field in February and March than the Cardinals did.
''This trip is always challenging,'' said Koenig before embarking on the journey, ''but it is a good way for us to gauge where we are at.''
This tournament runs through Friday with Canfield playing games everyday. When the Redbirds return home they will have a huge home-in-home series with conference co-favorite Fitch waiting for them on the schedule.