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The Baseball Cats Win the Ohio Jesuit Tournament

By Eli Maistros '24, 04/29/24, 1:45PM EDT


The Cats gain midseason momentum with wins against Walsh Jesuit and St. Xavier in the OJT.

CLEVELAND, OH - Coming into the weekend, the Wildcats were looking for a spark as they reached the regular season's halfway point. It would be another challenging weekend for the Cats as they would host the Ohio Jesuit Tournament from Brookside Reservation and play Walsh Jesuit and St. Xavier.

Kent State commit Sawyer Solitaria got the start on the hill for game one against Walsh Jesuit and ran into early trouble after an error allowed a runner to reach. Alabama commit Shawn Sullivan smashed a double to right field to bring that runner home. The Wildcat bats also started hot, with three first-inning singles; Jackson Boyer would drive in Jake Pfaff to tie the game after the first. 

Solitaria, who pitched a complete game shutout in his last outing against Upper Arlington, struck out two batters in the second inning, and catcher Taylor Belza threw out a runner to end the frame. Junior Brett Krugman drew a leadoff walk, but Warrior pitcher Sam Pece worked out of the inning unscathed. 

A two-out hit by Matthew Mansberry, followed by a walk, put the Wildcats in trouble, but Belza threw out another would-be base stealer to deny the threat. Pece walked Solitaria and Belza, and Boyer moved them over with a bunt. Neal Bartone got plunked to load the bases and Mitch Tarnowski came through with a two-run single to center and Marcus Tekancic followed with another run-scoring single to push the Saint Ignatius lead to three. 

Solitaria worked a three-up-three-down fourth and singled in the bottom half but was stranded. Solitaria struck the first hitter of the fifth out but allowed the next two to reach and move up on a sacrifice bunt. With two in scoring position, Pfaff made a diving stop on a ground ball and threw the runner out at first to keep the Warriors at bay. 

Tarnowski walked to start the Wildcat half of the fifth, and Krugman beat out an infield single to third. Pinch hitter Josh Jenkins deposited a curveball into center field that drove in a run, but the Warriors' Anthony Alberty was able to retire Solitaria and Belza to limit the damage. Solitaria stayed hot, working a 1-2-3 inning in the sixth, and the Warriors' reliever did the same to set up an exciting seventh inning. 

Solitaria hit the first batter of the seventh and gave up a single past the shortstop before a call to the bullpen for junior Joe Conrad was made. Conrad induced a groundout on the first batter he faced, but Andrew Holcomb smoked a single to right to drive the two runners in and cut the lead to two. Conrad got the leadoff man to fly out to right field, and Pfaff made a ranging play to end the game, giving the Wildcats a huge 5-3 statement win. 

In the championship game, Saint Ignatius faced the St. Xavier Bombers from Cincinnati, who beat St. John Jesuit the day before. 

Jenkins was given the ball by Head Baseball coach Brad Ganor, who sat at 399 managerial wins coming into this contest. After giving up a leadoff single, the Mount Union signee struck the next two out, and Belza cut down the runner at second base to end the first. St. Xavier pitcher Ben McDonald used a similar formula in his first frame, giving up a leadoff knock to Tekancic and then striking out the next three. 

In the second, the first two Bombers hitters collected singles, and Michael Zipperer brought one in with a ball in the right-center gap. Jenkins struck the next batter out and got Sam Thorsen to fly out to strand the runners on second and third. Belza and Jenkins matched the Bombers with singles to start the bottom half of the second, and their courtesy runners were moved into scoring position with a Tarnowski bunt. Krugman drove Mick Allington in with a sacrifice fly, and Bartone singled to bring in Trey Powers, giving Saint Ignatius the lead. 

SIBN Players of the Game vs. Walsh Jesuit: Sawyer Solitaria, Brett Krugman and Mitch Tarnowski

Leadoff man Jack Ryan reached second on an error in left field but was thrown out trying to stretch it to third. Andrew Weber laced a single, but once again, Belza was able to throw him out when trying to steal, his fourth caught stealing in two days, and a lineout ended the inning. Besides hitting Solitaria, McDonald finished his day with a clean inning. 

Dillon Brus smoked a ball to right field and was able to leg out a leadoff triple, immediately putting the Cats in danger. Jenkins, however, fought back, striking out Michigan football commit Ted Hammond, making a great play on a swinging bunt to retire the hitter, and striking out Zipperer to get out of the inning, showing some emotion coming off the mound. Once again, the Wildcats went quiet aside from Krugman getting hit by the new pitcher, Matthew Hoerst. 

The leadoff hitter reached on an error for the Bombers, but Jenkins retired the next three to end his day with a final line of five innings, six hits, one run, and seven strikeouts. Tekancic and Pfaff both reached on walks, and although Solitaria grounded into a double play, Tekancic scored on the play giving Saint Ignatius a significant insurance run. 

Sophomore Owen Mikin was called upon in the sixth and had trouble finding the strike zone, walking the first two batters. He struck out Hammond but gave up a run on a sacrifice fly, reducing the deficit to one run. After another walk, he forced a fielder's choice to end the sixth, the score 3-2. Saint Ignatius was able to push any runs across in the bottom of the inning, setting up yet another nail-biting seventh inning. 

Senior Xander Gendics was called upon to get the save and started strong with a strikeout of the leadoff man, but a runner reached on an error. Gendics fought back and struck the next two batters out to win the Wildcats yet another Jesuit Cup. 

The 3-2 victory over St. Xavier secured win number 400 for coach Ganor and improves the Wildcats to 6-8 on the season. They will have a busy week ahead, as they'll travel to Hoban on Tuesday, host Mentor on Wednesday, host Erie Cathedral Prep (PA) on Friday, and cap the week off on Saturday with a rematch of the 2023 OHSAA District Final against Wooster. 

SIBN Players of the Game vs. St. Xavier: Josh Jenkins and Marcus Tekancic