Dramatics were on display at Brookside Reservation over the weekend as the Wildcats defeated St. Xavier 3-2 in the Ohio Jesuit Tournament. Trailing 2-1 heading into the seventh inning, the Cats would claw back and tie the ball game at two, opening the door for a Gabe Nard walk-off sac fly to win their 12th in a row.
Over the week, there were plenty of changes to the schedule for the OJT. Originally the Cats were going to play the Bombers and Warriors at Walsh Jesuit High School. Due to poor weather throughout the week, the venue changed to Brookside Reservation and the Wildcats would play one game against St. Xavier under the lights at 7 p.m.
Senior Jacob Rocky got the start on Saturday night against the Bombers. The Marietta College commit has been lights out this whole season and Rocky continued his excellent pitching on Saturday. Rocky pitched a 1-2-3 first and second inning to give an early opportunity to the Wildcat bats to take the lead.
After a lead-off walk from junior Anthony Paskell in the bottom half of the second, the Wildcats sought to gain early momentum vs. St. Xavier. Paskell stole second to get into scoring position for freshman Sawyer Solitaria. Solitaria roped the first pitch he saw up the middle that deflected off the glove of the Bomber’s second baseman. Paskell would score on the RBI single and the Wildcats took an early 1-0 lead in the second.
Rocky retired the first nine Bomber batters and St. Xavier would not get their first hit until the start of the fourth inning. In a rarity this season for Rocky, the Bombers would get a run across on an RBI single lined into left field. Rocky would come back and get the final out of the inning to escape any more damage and the Wildcats and Bombers were deadlocked at one.
In the top half of the fifth, Rocky came out with a vengeance as he would strike out the side. This would wrap up Rocky’s night as he would finish five complete innings, striking out six and allowing a run.
Head Baseball Coach Brad Ganor called his right-hand flamethrower in Nard in the sixth inning. Nard gave up a lead-off walk but would come back and get the next two outs. With a runner in scoring position, two down and a payoff pitch on the way, the Bombers would come up clutch with an RBI single to take a 2-1 lead late in the game.
Heading into the bottom seventh, the Wildcats were looking to string together a run. The Cats would lead off strong as they would get their first three batters on base to load the bases with nobody out. With the infield playing in, Matt Giberti would ground a ball to the Bombers shortstop. With so much speed on the base paths for the Cats, Josh Putka would come across as the tying run, while Giberti was able to beat out the throw for the RBI infield single.
With bases loaded and one down in the seventh, next-up was Nard. With a 1-0 count, Nard flew a ball high and deep to center field for a sac fly opportunity. Connor Gromen came down the third baseline and slid in for the Wildcat walk-off victory. Nard would be mobbed by his teammates in between first and second base and was named the SIBN Player of the Game.
“I couldn’t be more excited,” Nard says. “That’s 12 in a row, and we’re ready for the next one.”
The 2021 OHSAA Tournament bracket was released over the week and the Wildcats will be the 2-seed from the Cleveland District. Sectional/District play will be hosted at Brookside Reservation. The Cats will open tournament play against the Maple Heights/Parma winner on May 20 at 5 p.m.
The homestand will continue at Brookside for Saint Ignatius as they will take on Chagrin Falls at 5 p.m. on Wednesday, Tallmadge at 7 p.m. and Brunswick at 12:30 p.m. All games will be streamed live on the SIBN.