CLEVELAND, Oh - The Baseball Cats enjoyed two back-to-back midweek games, taking down both Massillon Jackson and Padua. The red-hot Wildcats played on Tuesday and Wednesday during the Easter week and showed the Wildcat faithful the full potential of Head Baseball Coach Brad Ganor's ball club.
On Tuesday, Saint Ignatius traveled an hour South to Canton to take on the talented 5-2 Massillon Jackson Polar Bears. The Wildcats grabbed the bats first and despite two-out singles by Anthony Paskell and Sawyer Solitaria, Andrew Apanasewicz popped out to end the top half of the frame. Junior Ponch Gaich took the mound for the Wildcats in his second start of the season and he started hot, striking out two and retiring the side in his first inning of work. Dylan Murphy gave the Wildcats another two-out hit in the top of the second, but they could not cash it in again.
The Polar Bear bats came alive in the bottom of the second, as Gaich let the first three runners on via the walk and Jackson's Nico Stewart singled to drive a runner in. The next batter hit a sacrifice fly to center fielder Paskell and Jackson put one more run on the board. Second baseman Gabe Nard started the third inning with a double. Still, two flyouts, an intentional walk to Solitaria and an Apanasewicz fly out, meant the Wildcats were still scoreless.
Once again, the Polar Bears played station to station baseball loading the bases with only one out. The Polar Bears would get one run with a groundout before Gaich struck out Stewart to end the inning. Gaich finished his performance allowing three runs on three hits with three strikeouts and three walks in three innings of work. Saint Ignatius finally broke through at the dish in the fourth, as Max Palinski singled and after a pair of Wildcat groundouts, Senior Gabe Nard singled to left field and gave the Wildcats their first run of the contest.
Down 3-1 in the fourth inning, coach Ganor turned to junior James Corrigan and he delivered. To start his appearance, he struck out a Polar Bear, then, after giving up a bloop hit, induced a double play to get out of the inning. With the meat of the order up, the Cats were ready to pounce.
Paskell led off the inning with a single before Solitaria stepped up to the plate. On the seventh pitch of the at-bat, the sophomore first baseman put one over the center-field wall for a two-run home run and with one swing of the bat, the ball game was tied. Palinski and Apanasewicz singled, but pinch-runner Tony Rice was caught stealing and two Wildcat groundouts ended the explosive frame.
Again, Corrigan made quick work of the Jackson hitters, only allowing a single to a runner that would later be picked off. A 1-2-3 top of the sixth followed for Saint Ignatius and in the bottom of the frame, Corrigan allowed a leadoff single before catcher Dylan Murphy would catch him stealing. The junior reliever retired the following two. The same crew that produced the fifth inning runs would push one more across in the seventh, as Paskell, Solitaria and Apanasewicz all hit consecutive singles, with Palinski adding another to get the go-ahead RBI.
With the Wildcats up one going into the bottom half, Nard was brought on for the save. After getting the first two hitters out, Nard allowed a single before snagging a comebacker to the mound and throwing to first for the win. Solitaria led the way with two RBIs and Paskell, Apanasewicz and Palinski all had multi-hit games as the Wildcats took a nail-biter on Tuesday.
The Wildcats would come back to the friendly confines of Talty Field at Brookside Reservation for Wednesday's rainy evening affair. They matched up with the 4-1 Padua Bruins, who made the short trip from Parma. After a brief rain delay, Solitaria made his third start of the young season and did quick work in the first inning, as he retired three straight Bruins.
The command was not there for the pitchers early for Padua, as they would walk four batters and hit one more in only the first inning. In the bottom of the first, Vincent Fabe and Pauly Mancino would be put on base on balls and steal their way around the diamond, giving the Wildcats a 2-0 lead before a ball was even put in play. The fun wasn't over that inning, as Sam Meyer's sharp grounder went through the legs of the shortstop scoring Josh Putka. Alex Sidloski would score on a bases-loaded walk. After the long first inning, Solitaria returned to the mound and picked up where he left off with another 1-2-3 inning.
He would also bat in the bottom half of the inning when he hit a no-doubt home run over the left center field fence. Solitaria had his second home run in as many days and pushed the lead to five. "I was up against a lefty and got advice from my boy Nick Frontino," explains Solitaria. "He told me to sit back just a bit, got a fastball and I had to jump on it."
In the third inning, Sawyer allowed his only hit of the ballgame, a single through the first base and second base hole and walked another later in the inning, but settled down and worked out of the jam.
In the third, the senior Fabe added another with a laser to center driving in Jake Pfaff. Solitaria pitched another 1-2-3 inning in the fourth before the Cats' offense exploded. Pfaff walked, driving Mancino in with the bases loaded and Tony Rice was hit by a pitch that brought Putka home.
Up 8-0, Jake Fix stroked a double to left field, scoring Pfaff and Meyer and putting Saint Ignatius in double digits. Another double followed Fabe, scoring Rice and Fix, putting the home team up 12-0. With Saint Ignatius up 10+ runs, the mercy rule was in effect and the Bruins had one last chance. Solitaria took the hill and, after a leadoff walk, forced a 6-4-3 double play and a groundout to end it. Led by Solitaria's phenomenal two-way performance along with multi-RBI games from Fabe and juniors Fix and Rice, the Cats added another win.
The Wildcats are on fire as they move to 6-2, have a five-game winning streak, and have yet to lose in Ohio. Saint Ignatius now turns their attention to this Saturday for an exciting afternoon matchup at home against Archbishop Hoban. The SIBN will have coverage of both that and the preceding Freshman game.