From tradition-rich Carl "Ducky" Schroeder Field, the home of the Massillon Tigers and the Northeast Ohio Baseball Coaches Association's 2017 Field of the Year.
After he addressed his team in the visitor's dugout on Wednesday night, Saint Ignatius' veteran Head Baseball Coach Brad Ganor talked about an aspect of the game that many times is overlooked or taken for granted, on all levels.
"Defensively we were superb," Coach Ganor said after his Wildcats were able to tame a solid offense that had keyed the Massillon Tigers' strong start this spring. "It was a good team win, all around."
Saint Ignatius and Massillon, who both are now 4-2 on the young season after the Wildcats' 7-2 victory, took storied Carl "Ducky" Schroeder Field under blue skies and sunshine. A little cool, maybe, but all in all it was what you describe as decent April baseball weather in Northeast Ohio.
The Wildcats, who out-hit the Tigers, 8-4, took a 1-0 lead in the top of the first inning. Multi-skilled junior second baseman AJ Gaich led off by beating out a grounder to third base for an infield hit.
AJ then promptly stole second base and advanced to third on a pitch in the dirt. With one out, AJ came flying home on another pitch in the dirt that bounced away from the catcher.
After Saint Ignatius junior left fielder Michael Holdsworth, a Nebraska recruit, drew a walk and stole second, Massillon starter Alex Seifert would go on to prevent further damage in the inning off a 1-3 play at the plate and a strikeout.
Wildcats junior starter Matt Geraci, who improved his record to 2-1, set the Tigers down in order in the bottom of the first inning. First it was a line out to center field that was hauled in by the sure leather of senior Evan Henry, followed by a nice staying-with-the-play catch in foul territory by junior third baseman/relief pitcher Matt Ferritto. Saint Ignatius then ended the inning on a 6-3 groundout that saw senior first baseman/co-Captain Tommy Grosel leap for the strong throw and, in one motion, come back down on the bag to complete the play.
Saint Ignatius, which was coming off a 2-2 record at the prestigious Southeastern Baseball Classic in Hartsville, South Carolina, stretched its lead to 3-0 in the top of the second inning. Promising sophomore shortstop Michael McNamara led off with a hit and the big connection was an RBI double by Ferritto. The Tigers didn't help themselves by committing two more errors in the inning.
Massillon, which has developed a competitive and healthy Public School-Catholic School baseball rivalry with the Wildcats, loaded the bases with no outs in the bottom of the second inning.
Seifert, who is also the Tigers' clean-up hitter, led off with a double down the right-field line and second baseman Preston Brothers followed with a sharp single to left field. The bases were full of Tigers after third baseman Carter Burick was hit by a pitch.
Just when the Massillon faithful had visions of a huge inning, Henry, going back on the ball and battling a wind that was carrying the ball even deeper, made an exceptional stay-with-it diving one-handed catch as he went to the ground in center field. The runner at third would tag up and score, and the Tigers would get another run off a fielder's choice. Undaunted, Geraci coaxed an inning-ending 6-3 groundout.
"I thought Matt (Geraci) did a great job pitching out of a couple of jams and then Sam (LaGuardia), Matt (Ferritto) and Jack (Eyink) slammed the door," said Coach Ganor.
Saint Ignatius, which is scheduled to play the second of its four games in four days stretch this evening (Thursday) when it hosts Notre Dame-Cathedral Latin School (1-6) at 5 PM on Baldwin Wallace University's Fisher Field, started to pull away behind a three-run top of the third inning.
Holdsworth led off the inning with a single to right-center field and senior designated hitter JJ Conway, off the first pitch he saw, painted an authoritative double down the right-field line. Jack Eyink made it a 4-2 game with an RBI single through the left side of the infield and another Massillon throwing error allowed the Wildcats to take a three-run lead into the bottom of the third.
Geraci would retire the first two Tigers in the bottom of the third before yielding singles to Brothers and Burick. A potential two-out Massillon rally never came to fruition, however, as the big-hearted Geraci reached back for an inning-ending strikeout.
Inspired by the resiliency of its starting pitcher, Saint Ignatius would combine a leadoff walk to Ferritto, a stolen base by senior pinch runner Jordan Asimes, a one-out RBI single from Gaich, a base hit by Grosel and another RBI courtesy of Holdsworth into its 7-2 advantage.
Geraci would came back for the bottom of the fourth and get out of a bases-loaded jam when Grosel, a four-year Varsity baseball player who has competed on two OHSAA final-four teams, calmly made a big-time scoop of a sharply hit ball that had base hit written all over it.
As Coach Ganor emphasized, the firm of LaGuardia, Ferritto and Jack Eyink would make their case the rest of the way. Helping see to that was Henry, who came up with another web gem, this time off a smooth read and break on the ball that resulted in a diving one-handed grab in the right-center field gap.
SOMETIMES OVERLOOKED, BUT NOT BY THIS OLD CATCHER: Handling his pitchers well all evening and making some key blocks and scoops off low pitches was Wildcats senior catcher/co-Captain Drew Asadorian.
BACK HOME IN NORTHEAST OHIO: Before his team boarded the bus back to Saint Ignatius, Coach Ganor revealed that he thought his Wildcats swung the bats better at Massillon on Wednesday than they did in the beautiful 80-degree temperatures in South Carolina.
Along with being talented, you have to be tough-minded to play high school baseball up North in Ohio, my friends.
TAKING THE MOUND VERSUS THE LIONS: Coach Ganor will call on rich-in-promise junior Andrew Mulhern (1-0) in Thursday's (this evening's) 5 PM matchup with Notre Dame-Cathedral Latin School at Baldwin Wallace University. We will see you there.