NORTH RIDGEVILLE, Oh - On a perfect day for baseball at North Ridgeville High School, the Saint Ignatius Baseball Wildcats and the Strongsville Mustangs squared off for the second time in the 2022 campaign. At stake was a trip to the Regional Final and moving one step closer to the State Championship.
Head Varsity Baseball Coach Brad Ganor chose senior Gabe Nard to start the Regional Semifinal tilt, and he started hot, only allowing one to reach in the first.
The Wildcat offense stayed hot in the first when Anthony Paskell walked and Billy Adams continued his impressive postseason and drove him in with a single. Nard then helped his cause out by lacing his first of three extra-base hits to the right field, scoring Adams. Max Palinski singled to move Nard to third before Andrew Apanasewicz blooped one over the shortstop's head, scoring Nard and ending the Strongsville starting pitcher's night early. Carson Herman followed with a single to score Palinski, and the Cats were up 4-0 after one.
The Mustang half of the second started with an Adams error on a sharp groundball, but the senior shortstop made up for it with a diving snag to end the frame. The Strongsville reliever would mow the Wildcats down to finish the second.
Nard walked the first two in the third but struck the next two out and corralled a chopper back to the mound to keep Strongsville scoreless. Palinski hit a one-out single, but the Cats were held scoreless in the third.
Nard continued his masterful outing in the third, only allowing a two-out walk and recording a strikeout. The Cats' bats resumed their action in the bottom of the fourth when SIBN's very own Eli Maistros called a Paskell triple that scored pinch-runner Josh Putka. A pitch hit Adams and Nard laced his second double of the contest, scoring two. After four, Saint Ignatius had a 7-0 advantage.
In the fifth frame, Nard ran into his first and only trouble of the evening when the Mustangs singled in four straight at-bats, scoring one. A sac fly, strikeout and hit by pitch followed. With the bases loaded and two outs, coach Ganor stuck with his guy and Nard delivered, emphatically striking out his seventh batter of the game and maintaining the Wildcat lead at 7-2. Nard finished with two runs on four hits and seven strikeouts in five innings of work.
Liam Baker was the choice to replace Nard, and the junior kept up his hot postseason, retiring the Mustangs quickly in the sixth. The Wildcats tacked two more insurance runs in the sixth as Nard continued his insane day with an opposite-field triple, scoring Adams. Palinski collected his third knock of the contest driving in Nard with a single.
Pauly Mancino was called upon to close it out and he did just that, securing a Wildcat winner and a trip to the Regional Final.
The Baseball Cats are right back at it, playing in the Regional Final this evening at 5:00 p.m. against #24 in the state Sylvania Northview. The SIBN will have live video coverage of the event at North Ridgeville High School.