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Cardinals' confidence soars to highest peak

May 15, 2014
By Nik Zirounis - Town Crier Correspondent , The Town Crier

After an unsuccessful showing at the Mingo Bay tournament in Myrtle Beach and three consecutive losses following that trip, Canfield's baseball team was in dire need of an immediate ego boost. To get that desired injection of energy, Canfield called upon its core of nine seniors.

May 7 in Canfield was celebrated as Senior Day as the Cardinals played host to West Branch in a makeup game from earlier this season. The Canfield kids upended the Warriors 5-4 in extra innings. Down 4-0 in the bottom of the fifth inning, the Cardinals started to climb out of the doldrums that have been haunting them for the past few weeks. Senior Nick Luchansky started the fifth frame off with a single. Senior Edmond Pilolli would plate Luchansky with an RBI hit and the Cardinals would eventually cut the deficit to 4-3. Tied 4-4 in the bottom of the eighth, senior Colton Crissman would lead off the extra frame with a double. He would then score the winning run thanks to a sacrifice fly off the bat of senior Jake Cole.

''We pulled it out,'' said head coach Matt Koenig. ''It was a great day for the seniors. Having the seniors play a major role in the win was great. The kids may have been distracted and a bit nervous by the (pregame) ceremony,'' said Koenig. ''They had a lot of friends and family there to watch them. It took us a while to get started.''

West Branch waited the entire day to get started in a rematch played on its home diamond two days later, but it never could. Joey Machuga manhandled the Warriors giving up just four hits in a 6-0 Canfield shutout. The Cardinals collected all of the runs they needed to back Machuga in the opening inning when they scored six times. Cole had two of Canfield's seven hits.

In the upcoming Division II state tournament, Cardinal Mooney is seeded number one, Poland is number two and West Branch and Canfield are at numbers three and four respectively.

''Seeing West Branch twice and winning twice gave us a mental advantage,'' said Koenig, ''but we know we didn't see their number one starter and they kept some kids out of their lineup. We need to keep things in perspective.''

Canfield traveled to Twinsburg Thursday and made the Twinsburg pitchers see double in a 15-3 rout. Jimmy Leone, who is usually the star on the pitching mound, showed some muscle at the plate. He blasted a mammoth homerun to dead centerfield and came back up later and almost hit another to the same location that fell for a double. Junior Mike Sebes swatted a three-run homerun in the top of the first to get things rolling for the Cardinals who subsequently scored in every inning of the contest.

''The bats came alive,'' said Koenig. ''We have been looking for that for a long time. I hope (the bats) are here to stay.''

Thanks to a first round bye, the Cards will wait until May 14 to play the winner of the match between Struthers and Salem. Although the Cardinals reside in Division II, they have played a schedule this season that has featured 13 contests against Division I participants. Canfield (11-7 overall) has gone 7-6 in those games.

A primer for the playoffs against Akron St. Vincent/St. Mary was scheduled last Monday. That game with the Fighting Irish was important because it enabled Coach Koenig's kids to shore up some flaws in their defense.

''We struggle at times defensively,'' Koenig said, ''but we have been hitting on all cylinders on offense. When our bats are hot we're a tough team to beat.''



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