CLEVELAND, Oh - The Saint Ignatius Baseball Wildcats continued their playoff run in the District Semifinals with an afternoon victory over the Shaker Heights Raiders. It was a day headlined by Wildcat pitching by Liam Baker's masterful performance.
The junior right-handed pitcher Baker was Head Baseball Coach Brad Ganor's choice to start the contest on the bump. The first inning was the only blemish on Baker's performance. The Raiders jumped out to an early 1-0 lead when catcher Andrew Apanasewicz threw to second to get the attempted stealer, allowing the runner on third to cross.
The Wildcats would strike back in the bottom half as Billy Adams singled with one out before Gabe Nard brought him home with a base hit of his own. It was the Duke baseball commit's first of three hits on the ballgame.
Baker settled down in the second, only allowing one base runner. The Saint Ignatius offense came alive in the second, as Pauly Mancino put a ball in play, allowing Jake Fix to cross. Billy Adams then followed that up with a sacrifice fly to score Mancino. The Cats would take a lead that they would not give up.
Baker came back out for the third and struck out two more, increasing his game total to five. After a quiet bottom of the third, Baker came out for the fourth and struck out the side in 13 pitches, all swinging strikeouts.
In the bottom of the frame, Mancino reached again with a walk and Adams smoked a line drive into the outfield for a triple. Nard followed that with another Adams scoring single to put the Wildcats up 5-1 after four.
Again, Baker dominated, striking out the first two Raiders with relative ease before a single-ended Baker's strikeout streak at five consecutive. Baker wasn't phased, however, as he came back and struck the next batter out to end the inning.
The Wildcats' offense cooled off for the day, but the pitching was still red hot. Baker struck out one more in the sixth before his day was over. He finished with 12 strikeouts and only allowed one run in six innings. The young junior showed what he was made of in the playoff tilt.
Mancino was called upon to close the game and he did just that, striking out four batters (a runner reached on a dropped third strike) and closed the door on the Raiders.
The Wildcats will face the Medina Battling Bees on Thursday in the OHSAA District Final, with a trip to Regionals on the line. The first pitch is scheduled for 5 p.m. at Brookside Reservation and the SIBN will have live video coverage.