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Heroes abound as the Wildcats rally from deficits of four, three and two runs and go on to a dramatic 8-7, eight-inning victory at Twinsburg on Wednesday evening.

By Eddie Dwyer, 03/28/12, 12:00AM EDT


Conor Hennessey provides both the game-tying hit in the top of the sixth and the go-ahead RBI hit in the eighth. Ralph Lucarelli, Stephen Alexander and Scott Chase also deliver big hits and clutch defensive plays by Andrew Piscioneri, Tyler Finkler and Cole Neito, along with some exceptional base running by Dan Oaklief, play major roles. Keeping the Wildcats in the game with outstanding efforts out of the bullpen were Matt Lynch and Matt Hoyer, and shutting the door with three K's in the bottom of the eighth was Tim McCoy.



Twinsburg, Ohio – As far as Saint Ignatius’ gifted and gritty junior left fielder Conor Hennessey is concerned, it was all about executing in a manner Wildcats head coach Brad Ganor expects from his teams.

Wednesday evening in Twinsburg’s atmosphere-rich baseball facility, Hennessey and his teammates not only executed when it mattered most, but displayed the camaraderie, flexibility and resiliency that when it is all said and done might be how Coach Ganor’s 2012 Wildcats will be remembered.

Saint Ignatius, with an array of players providing memorable moments, overcame deficits of four, three and two runs before rallying to an 8-7, eight-inning victory over a talented and well-schooled Twinsburg club.

The Wildcats, who were coming off a tough 3-0, opening-day loss at Massillon Jackson, rode some outstanding pitching by Matt Lynch, Matt Hoyer and Tim McCoy, and Hennessey’s late-inning heroics at the plate to one of the two toughest victories in any baseball season – the first one. I’ll let you guess what the second one is.

In what was an emotional and enjoyable game between two programs with big hearts, Coach Ganor watched his team produce so many heroes that this corner is going to take the liberty of calling this one a “true team victory.”

“Matt Lynch, who was just called up to the varsity two days ago, did a great job of keeping us in the game, Matt Hoyer was phenomenal in those late innings and then Tim (McCoy) coming up big there in the last inning,” said Coach Ganor of some of the diamond drama that took place on the mound. “And offensively, it was a matter of getting the job done – bunting guys over and playing the game the way it is going to have to be played, with small ball.

“I’m very proud,” Coach Ganor continued. “I sincerely believe that other years there are teams that don’t win this game. This team showed a lot of moxie. It felt good.”

Saint Ignatius’ coaching staff wasn’t feeling very good after the top of the first inning. The Wildcats loaded the bases on an error and singles by junior second baseman Dan Rowbottom and McCoy, who is a senior centerfielder, tri-captain and left-handed pitcher. After senior designated hitter Ralph Lucarelli produced the game’s first run with a sacrifice fly to deep left field, the ‘Cats ended up stranding runners on second and third.

After setting the ‘Cats down in order in the top of the second, Twinsburg, under the direction of veteran skipper Don Jones, welcomed Mr. Momentum into its dugout by scoring five runs in the bottom of the second. The big blow for the Tigers was a two-out, bases-loaded fly ball to deep right field off the bat of senior designated hitter Matt Jaskiewicz that resulted in a three-run double.

Saint Ignatius, which outhit Twinsburg, 11-7, go back in the game in the top of the fourth on one-out singles by senior first baseman Stephen Alexander and junior third baseman/shortstop Tyler Finkler, a wild pitch and a two-out, two-run single by senior right fielder/pitcher Scott Chase. Scott is in the baseball groove after putting together a solid district-qualifying wrestling season at 182 pounds.

The Tigers answered with an RBI double by Jaskiewicz in the bottom of the fourth, an inning that saw a smooth diving stop and throw by junior third baseman Cole Neito prevent Twinsburg (1-2) from doing further damage.

Trailing, 6-3, entering the fifth inning, the Wildcats kept clawing back. Lucarelli drove in another run with a two-out roller down the third-base line that the Tigers couldn’t turn into an out. Alexander followed with an RBI single that sent senior pitcher/outfielder Dan Oaklief, who was pinch running, racing home from second. In what was a picture-perfect slide around the catcher, Dan got his hand on the plate before the tag. The effort by Oaklief made it a one-run game after 4½ innings.

Coach Jones’ Tigers increased their lead to 7-5 with a run in the bottom of the fifth, only to watch St. Ignatius tie the score in the top of the sixth.

Junior pitcher/first baseman Mike LaManna led off with a walk, Chase reached on a sharp grounder off his wood bat that was too hot to handle, Neito laid down a text-book bunt and a wild pitch made it a one-run deficit again. Hennessey then stepped to the plate and promptly tied the score on a sharp single.

Hoyer, a 6-foot-5 senior right-hander who is bound for Mercyhurst on a football scholarship, took the mound in the bottom of the sixth and threw a 1-2-3 inning against the heart of Twinsburg’s batting order. After the ‘Cats went in order in the top of the seventh, Matt, a tri-captain on a vote by his teammates, again displayed poise and savvy with runners on first and second and no outs, and the game on the line.

The Tigers laid down a bunt that saw Neito charge the ball, field it cleanly and, without any hesitation, turn and fire a perfect throw to Finkler, who was covering third base. Hoyer struck out the next batter and, after senior catcher Andrew Piscioneri made an outstanding block of a ball that was sinking in the dirt, Hoyer (1-0) coaxed the third out on a pop up to Finkler at shortstop.

“It didn’t really matter who I was throwing to, I was just playing the game,” said Hoyer, who emphasized that he was using his usual combination of a fastball and a changeup against the Tigers’ 3-4-5 hitters in the sixth. “The location was big, setting them up inside and then we would paint that outside corner. The pressure was on, but you still have to play the game like you’re playing catch with the catcher.”

Matt said he really likes playing at Twinsburg’s impressive facility, where he has a little history. As Saint Ignatius’ head junior varsity coach Ken Tippy pointed out, Hoyer threw an exceptional game against the Tigers’ jayvees as a sophomore.

Following Hoyer’s heroics on the mound, the Wildcats set up the go-ahead run in the top of the eighth on a hit batsman, a sacrifice bunt by Chase and a ground ball to the right side off the bat of senior shortstop and tri-captain Mike Ruffing. The throw from Twinsburg’s second baseman was a bit wide and Mike did an exceptional job of avoiding the tag by the first baseman.

Hennessey came to the plate again and sent a one-out, line-drive RBI single into left field that had the sweet sound of success coming off his wood bat.

McCoy stepped to the mound in the bottom of the eighth and, as cool as another lefty named Sandy Koufax, shook off a lead-off single and struck out Twinsburg’s 3-4-5 hitters en route to earning the save.

The Wildcats hit the road again on Thursday, as they travel to Amherst Steele for a 4:30 matchup with the Comets. Sophomore Nick Longo will take the mound.

CASE FOR THE DEFENSE: Along with his key block in the dirt in the bottom of the seventh, Piscioneri also blocked a ball in the bottom of the first inning that would have made Johnny Bench smile and he picked off a runner at first in the bottom of the second. Finkler, who played both third and shortstop on Wednesday, made a running, leaping catch in short left field that took away a base hit and he also ran down a high chopper behind second base and threw an accurate seed to first base to throw out the runner. And then there were the plays by Neito that we mentioned above.

JV AND FRESHMEN OFF TO A SOLID START: Coach Tippy's junior varsity team improved to 2-0 with a 12-10 victory at Twinsburg on Wednesday and Coach Matt Kimmick's freshmen stand 2-0.

TENNIS TEAM WINS ITS SEASON OPENER AND THE VARSITY LACROSSE TEAM DOMINATES UNIVERSITY SCHOOL: Congratulations to the Wildcats' varsity and junior varsity tennis teams, who opened their 2012 seasons with identical 5-0 victories at Lakewood on Wednesday.

The varsity lacrosse team stands 2-0 after another impressive victory on Wednesday night - a 10-2 triumph over the Preppers from University School on Wasmer Field.

Coach Jon Barker's tennis program is scheduled to play at Copley today at 4 p.m. Coach Patrick McManamon's lacrosse team, which has outscored its first two opponents, 17-3, will travel to Westlake on Friday for a matchup with the Demons at 7 p.m.