Sometimes one bad game can really ruin a remarkable season.
That was the case for the burning hot Fitch baseball team when it played in the Division I district championship May 24 afternoon at Bob Cene Park. Usually dependable starting pitcher Alex DiFrancesco lasted just 2 1/3 innings as he was knocked around for four earned runs on five hits and, more glaring, Fitch's defense committed a comical six errors as the Falcons fell to Aurora, 13-5. That unpleasing performance by the Falcons halted their season at 21-4. More importantly, Fitch's year crashed to a halt one win shy of an appearance in the state regionals, a place that its coach anticipated being.
"We're really disappointed and expected to go farther," said head coach Wally Ford to reporters after the loss. "That's the nature of the tournament. You play one bad game and it's over."
The 26-5 Greenmen made sure it would be a bad game for Fitch when they gashed DiFrancesco for five runs. Aurora was ahead 5-1 in the top of the fourth when the Falcons attempted a comeback. Fitch loaded the bases in that frame, but unlike most games this season, was not able to capture that clutch hit. Only a Phil Socha sacrifice fly kept the Falcons from totally failing in the fourth. Tony Adams then banged into an inning-ending double play to pull the plug on Fitch's rally. Aurora would then take the Falcons out of the tournament with a six-run fifth inning. Not so coincidentally that would also be Fitch's worse fielding inning of the entire season. Three Fitch errors enabled Aurora to get men on base then five Greenmen recorded RBI hits off of reliever Scott Pierce to make the score 12-3. Fitch's defense was so bad it looked as if it was playing inside a quadrangular box instead of a wide-open diamond.
"It was just a nightmare of a game and it's not like us to make that many errors," Ford complained.
It wasn't much of a nightmare for Fitch on offense against Aurora. The Falcons fought their way to eight hits and had numerous other hard hit balls that found their way into Greenmen gloves. Pierce picked up a pair of doubles and two RBI. Socha added a triple and another RBI to his sac fly. Kevin Sierra doubled and scored.
Ford's kids once again put up eight hits the day before against Chardon in the district semifinal. This time, the Falcons and starting pitcher Austin Cooper were able to make those hits stand up in Fitch's 6-2 elimination of its opponent. Cooper threw a complete game and gave up just two runs on six hits. Zarek Bell brought home four of Fitch's six runs. Shane Vitullo and Zack Miller had the other two ribbies. Probably the biggest stat of the day, especially considering what happened one day later, is that the Falcons only had one error all afternoon.
A lot of the Falcons who were on the field for the finale last Friday were seniors and will be sorely missed next season. Cooper, Bell, Adams, Kevin Sierra and Jeff Melnek are some of the seniors who will leave a huge hole in Ford's lineup. Yet with players like DiFrancesco, Miller, Socha, Vitullo, Luke Peterson and Alex Sierra among the returnees it seems as if Fitch will once again trend upward in 2014.
Before we look too far ahead to next year, it would be prudent to reflect on the fabulous output of this Fitch team. The Fitch boys brought home 21 wins and won its first sectional title in four years. Coach Ford also topped the 200-win plateau for his career. Yet, as the coach alluded to, a lot more was desired by this group. While Fitch's softball counterparts were able to dispose of Aurora and advance to the regionals, the miscues made by their baseball brothers disabled them from doing the same exact thing.