The Wildcats fell 3-0 in the District Final to the Berea-Midpark Titans on Thursday, May 27, from Brookside Reservation. The pitchers duel went in favor of the Titans as Brady Compton threw a complete game shut-out allowing just two hits in the winning effort. Despite the loss in the District Final, the future continues to stay bright for Saint Ignatius Baseball.
There was a sense that this would be a low-scoring affair from the jump as both teams threw out their best pitcher. Senior Jacob Rocky got the nod as the left-handed pitcher started the game how he typically would, forcing 1-2-3 innings against the opposition. Rocky retired the first six Titan batters in the District Final.
The Wildcats would have a base runner in each inning; however, they could not get a run across as Compton managed to avoid any damage in the contest. “I give Berea-Midpark credit because their kid (Compton) came out and did a great job,” says Head Baseball Coach Brad Ganor. “ He kept us off balance and used his breaking ball effectively.”
The top of the third inning is when Berea-Midpark broke the scoreless tie. Back-to-back singles by the Titans opened the door for early scoring. Outfielder Spencer Reardon hit an RBI groundout to make the score 1-0 and outfielder Giano Zuccaro singled a line drive to left field to give the Titans a 2-0 advantage in the third.
After a shaky top of the third, Rocky came back in the fourth and pitched a 1-2-3 inning, showing the resiliency he threw with all season long. Rocky would toss a scoreless fourth, fifth and sixth keeping the Wildcats within shooting distance. The Titans would add an insurance run in the top of the seventh on an RBI single by Zuccaro, making the score 3-0 Berea-Midpark.
Although it was in a losing effort, Rocky pitched a decent game as he would go the entire length pitching seven innings, allowing just three runs and striking out four Titan batters.
Despite the odds, the Wildcats would not go down without a fight. Matt Giberti would walk and Billy Adams would reach an error, bringing the tying run to the plate with two down in the inning. Junior Gabe Nard stepped up to bat for the Cats, looking for a rally in the seventh. Unfortunately for the Wildcats, Compton maneuvered his way out of danger and, on his 118th pitch of the ball game, struck out Nard to put an end to the Wildcats season.
“It was disappointing; our kids weren’t looking ahead,” says Ganor. “We were as ready for that game as we were for the District Semifinal game, we were playing good baseball, we were hitting on all cylinders, but they got the best of us that day.”
As the Titans made the final out, Wildcat players came together with the seniors one last time as coach Ganor addressed his ball club after the tough loss. “No matter what, at the end of the day, they are going to have numbers behind their name,” explains Ganor. “Those seniors will have ‘21 in front of their name; the loss will sting for a while, but those numbers are behind their name; they will enjoy talking about the good memories they had playing baseball at Saint Ignatius.”
This year arguably was one of the most challenging seasons for all athletics, losing the 2020 season and battling through a pandemic. This was true for baseball as only two players on the roster (Nard/Giberti) had prior varsity experience. Despite the loss in the District Final, there was a load of memorable success’ from these Wildcats.
“I’m proud of how these guys persevered,” Ganor says. “We never could figure out a good path to preseason baseball, but once February came around, these guys never looked back and they made the best of it.”
There was a share of memorable moments that will be sketched into the history of the 2021 campaign; those include two walk-offs by freshman Sawyer Solitaria, a 1-0 victory over Walsh Jesuit, Rocky’s near perfect game vs. Archbishop Hoban, etc. However, coach Ganor mentions an off-the-field memory that will never be forgotten. “Memorable wins will be on everyone’s mind, but I thought the team lunches on Wednesday were fantastic,” says Ganor. “All three levels ate lunch together and interacted with each other and that was thanks to the parents who did a great job making a connection across the program; it was a unique experience.”
Eyes begin to turn for the future of Wildcat baseball as the Blue and Gold hope to build off this season with many returning pieces. Juniors Gabe Nard, Anthony Paskell, and Billy Adams were critical pieces in coach Ganor’s 2021 Wildcats and significant senior contributors next season. The Saint Ignatius community saw young talent on the varsity level with sophomores Max Palinski and Dylan Murphy and freshman Sawyer Solitaria
“The cupboard is always full at Ignatius,” explains Ganor. “Finding the right pieces to put together next season will be a challenge.
There was plenty of success at the other two levels as JV wrapped up their regular season with a 27-1 record and Freshman finished with a 20-4 record. “I’m excited about the experience we have coming back,” mentions Ganor. “We have quite a bit of talent coming back, and the guys coming up are excellent, JV was fantastic and it will be difficult making the final decisions, but the roster is going to be a strong one.
Although the season ended in the District Final, this was a season to remember for Wildcat baseball. The Saint Ignatius community thanks all seniors for their hard work and dedication over the last four years, especially playing through a pandemic. The hard work from these Wildcats will not be forgotten and most will continue their baseball careers at the college level.
A one last thank you to Katie Gerba (mother of senior Owen Gerba) and Kristie Winfield (mother of junior Jack Bender) for their photos throughout the season.