June 9, 2019. The date that the Saint Ignatius community will celebrate for years to come as it was the second state championship in program history with the Wildcats winning 4-2 in 10 innings vs. the Mentor Cardinals at Canal Park in Akron. This date is also significant because this was the last time the Wildcats hit a baseball diamond together due to the 2020 cancellation from COVID-19. With the 2021 season upon us, Saint Ignatius will take the field on a brand new home turf at Brookside Reservation in the Metroparks.
“I’m excited; 21 months of not playing a game for Ignatius baseball is a long time,” says Head Baseball Coach Brad Ganor. “It truly makes you appreciate the experiences we have here at Saint Ignatius.”
2021 presents a year of new challenges for the Wildcats as for most of the roster; this will be the first time putting on the blue and gold varsity uniform. Sophomores have their challenges as they have yet to play a regular-season game in high school. Senior captain Gip Conroy puts this season into perspective, “I’m glad we’re at brookside this year; it is going to be a different experience,” explains Conroy. “I feel like it is a whole new team compared to the past, so Brookside fits for a new place and new team.”
Brookside Reservation is a beautiful spot for a baseball diamond as in 2019, Talty Field was renovated to be an all-turf field. The Cleveland Metroparks unveiled the Jim Thome All-Star Complex, named after the MLB Hall of Fame member and Cleveland Indians legend. Due to the pandemic, the Wildcats could not share a field at Baldwin Wallace University with the Yellow Jackets. Coach Ganor and Saint Ignatius decided to play all home games at Brookside Reservation in 2021.
The Wildcats are no stranger to playing on a turfed playing surface as BW is turfed in Berea. “This field is one of the nicer ones,” says senior pitcher Owen Gerba. “The mound is firm and maintains shape throughout the season no matter the weather; it is a great area to play on; we are grateful to play here.” Gerba is also the recipient of the #34 jersey, representing the late Jim Skerl’s legacy on and off the field.
The student-athletes have taken a liking to the new field at Brookside as they have hosted scrimmages in the last two weeks, with the weather improving in Northeast Ohio. The Wildcats’ previous scrimmage came on Tuesday vs. Avon Lake. The Cats won that scrimmage and appeared to be gelling on the new home turf. “It’s not that big of a difference between dirt and turf,” explains senior infielder Noah Brazytis. “This is a beautiful field, and it is brand new, it is a great experience.”
With the turfed field, there seem to be no weird bounces with the baseball. “Bounces are great on the turf,” says senior infielder and pitcher Luke Roggenburk. “we also have to be ready to play on dirt as well.”
The Wildcats have been eager in the last month to play a meaningful game of baseball, and the positive atmosphere can be felt when the Cats have practiced inside the Magis Athletic Center. “Excited is the first word that comes to my mind,” says Gerba. “It has been a full year since anyone has touched a baseball field wearing an Ignatius uniform.”
“Word’s can’t describe it,” says senior captain John Panstares. “This is a new group of guys with a lot of underclassmen, but we’re going to be good, and we’re excited to do some damage this year.” The Panstares name may sound familiar, as his older brother Alex ’15 was a catcher on the 2015 state-semifinal team. Alex enters his first year as an assistant coach with Ganor’s staff in 2021.
The Wildcats will defend their 2019 Division I title this season and seek to repeat as state champions. There is a combined goal this season between all of the players and coaches, and that is to become state champions once again.
“My personal goal is to help this team win a state championship,” says Roggenburk. We have to rally together for it.”
Gerba simply put his goal for this season, “win a state championship.”
The Wildcats will begin that quest on Saturday, March 27 at 2:30 p.m. as they will open at Brookside Reservation vs. the Massillon Jackson Polar Bears. The SIBN will have live coverage of the season opener, with JV beginning at noon. Baseball is back at Saint Ignatius!