Loaded with six senior starters, the top seeded Fitch baseball team was a heavy favorite to advance far in the Division I state tournament.
Unfortunately for the Falcons, that memo never got to their first opponent. Fifth seeded Macedonia Nordonia was in control for most of the district semifinal played May 19 at Cene Park as the Falcons were forced out of the playoffs much earlier than expected.
Nordonia nipped Fitch 6-4, halting the Falcons' season with a record of 15-10.
The underdog Knights started the scoring with a run in the top of the first inning, but Fitch found a run in the bottom of the second. Kyle Benyo recorded a sacrifice fly to make the score 1-1. Nordonia would go back on top in the top of the third with three runs to make the score 4-1.
That giftwrapped rally by the Knights would not deter the Falcons, as the local kids came back to cut their deficit. Nick Heitzer started the home half of the third with a walk and came home via a Scott Pierce double.
With the score now 5-2 in the bottom of the fifth, the Falcons once again retaliated. Heitzer would begin the frame with a single then he showed his sensational speed when he scored on a Zack Miller single.
The Knights pushed their final run across the dish in the top of the seventh to make the score 6-3.
It seemed at that juncture that all was lost for the Falcons, and their dreams of a district championship were about to be dashed. That was especially true when Nordonia recorded the first two outs of the final inning.
These senior laden Falcons did not win the All-American Conference by giving up when things became tough, however. Pierce hit his second double of the game to get on base. Miller then made it on base with a single. Phil Socha then smacked a double to knock in Pierce and made the score 6-4. Then, with two on and two out, Luke Peterson attempted to play postseason hero.
Peterson plastered a shot in the hole between first and second. Nordonia second sacker Justin Post dove, stabbed the ball and retired Peterson to foil Fitch's rally and season.
Fitch stranded eight runners and was just 2 for 8 with runners in scoring position last Monday.
Miller went 3 for 4 with a run and an RBI in his final game as a Falcon. Also graduating this summer will be stalwart senior starters such as Alex DiFrancesco, Shane Vitullo, Pierce, Socha and Peterson. In total, nine seniors were on the Fitch roster making goodbyes after the tournament game very hard.
''It's tough to lose these seniors,'' said Fitch head coach Wally Ford.
With all the 12th graders, it was amazing that Ford had room in his lineup to play any underclassmen, but he did and some were impactful.
Top of the order titan Heitzer was a terror on the base paths all year. Benyo seemed to blast a homerun in almost every game at the end of the season.
Tommy James, Jared Kapturasky, Noah Suchora, Pat Gerberry and Dominic DiFrancesco were other underclassmen who Ford will be counting on to lead the flock next spring.
While the outlook for 2015 is exciting, it didn't stop the coach from reminiscing about everything that went well in 2014.
''It was a good season,'' Ford said. ''We won a league title. It just hurts a little now.''