Falcon coaches looking to next season
May 16, 2018


In order to advance in the Division I state tournament, the Fitch baseball team needed to spring a pair of upsets in the district round.

The third seeded Falcons first chance came this past Monday night when it visited number two seed Massillon Washington at Canton's Thurman Munson Stadium. A win over the Tigers would propel the Falcons into a potential match with top seeded and mighty Massillon Jackson. Prior to that encounter, Fitch head coach Joe Paris explained how dancing this possible Massillon Two Step is different than in years past.

"They realigned the districts," said Paris. "We used to have teams come to us, now we have to go to Thurman Munson Stadium. We usually didn't see the Federal League teams so early."

Based on Monday afternoon's outcome, Paris may not want to see those Federal League foes ever again. Massillon parlayed a small-ball attack and a few Fitch miscues into a crippling six run third inning. That would be all the Tigers needed with ace Aidan Longwell on the mound. Longwell didn't allow Fitch to score until the final inning in a 7-2 victory. Those runs by the Falcons were the first ones the Tigers' terrific hurler allowed all year.

"He's tough," Paris said of Longwell. "He's a great pitcher. He just peppers the strike zone."

Massillon, meanwhile, peppered the playing field in that fateful third frame with a hit and run offense and a lot of bunting. The Falcons aided the Tigers' offense with two errors, a wild pitch and a passed ball. It was a nightmarish inning that Coach Paris never planned on seeing.

"We knew in our scouting reports what (Massillon) would try to do," Paris said. "We should have been ready for it, but we didn't execute. We had some kids make some errors that they usually don't do."

Fitch's boys made it into the districts thanks to a 3-2 win over rival Boardman in the sectional championship played May 8 in Austintown. Things started off shaky for the Falcons when Boardman's Evan Knaus knocked out a two-run homerun in the top of the first inning to stake the Spartans to a 2-0 lead. That would be the only offense Boardman would muster. Superstar starting pitcher Kenny Misik was masterful the rest of the contest holding Boardman hitless over the final six frames. Fitch's offense did just enough and, unlike in the third inning of the district semis, its fielders were superb behind the talented lefty ace.

"It was a really nice win," Paris said. "Misik threw a bad pitch on an 0-2 count, then didn't allow a hit. We played great defense and got some timely hitting."

Paris' club ended the campaign with an 18-8 record. It also captured a share of the All American Conference's Red Tier championship with Boardman and Canfield. That feat was enough to brighten the spirits of Fitch's bench boss after Monday night's season capper.

"It was a great season," said Paris. "Winning the Red Tier and beating our rival Boardman in the sectional final were the highlights."

Unfortunately, the Falcons will graduate 14 seniors from their roster this summer. While Fitch does have some promising players returning, the holes left by such a huge senior class will be hard to fill in just one season.

"There wasn't much to say (to the seniors)," Paris said. "We're going to miss them. We have some good kids coming up, but next year is probably going to be a rebuilding year."


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