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Satisfying South Carolina trip has Falcons headed in right direction
April 24, 2019

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A spectacular shutout victory over one of the best teams in South Carolina enabled the Fitch baseball team to leave the prestigious Grand Strand tournament in Myrtle Beach with a 2-2 record.

Overall, the Falcons are now 11-4 on the campaign as they embark on the stretch run of the regular season. Since they are in second place in the All American Conference, it will take a perfect ending for the Falcons to finish in first place. Regardless of how difficult the road to the division title may be, head coach Joe Paris thinks his boys are still playing well.

"I feel we're in a good place," said Paris a day after returning from Myrtle Beach. "We're still looking for consistency. It's always about consistency with a young team like ours."

The young Falcons played well beyond their years when they upset one of the host schools, North Myrtle Beach. The Chiefs entered the contest with 18 wins and a number 3 ranking in the state of South Carolina. Those accolades didn't frighten Fitch starter Devin Higginbotham who spun a complete game shutout. The senior slinger scattered six hits and struck out seven batters in his gem.

"Higginbotham threw only 77 pitches," said Paris. "He hit every spot."

Senior slugger Kenny Misik also did some hitting, but his was with the bat in his hands. Misik led the Falcons with two hits and an RBI. Junior Casey Bokesch brought home two runs. Fellow junior Gabe Faunda had two hits as did sophomore Jake Lawrence. Fitch's four run sixth inning was all of the offense the club needed to chop down the Chiefs in this fabulous finale.

"It was a great ending to our trip," Paris said. "We played our best game of the year. We didn't make any mistakes. It was great baseball for seven innings. It was so much fun."

The Fitch kids also had fun when they nipped George Washington of West Virginia 3-2 on April 16. This time it was junior pitcher Patrick Coleman who took home the win. Like his senior teammate did a couple days later, Coleman tossed a complete game giving up two runs on seven hits. He fanned eight along the way. Senior Christian Myers mashed a home run as part of his two hit day and added two RBIs. Myers' homer broke a 2-2 tie and provided the Falcons their winning run. Misik, Lawrence and sophomore Derek Franken added hits for the victors.

The two losses at the beach were by a combined score of 26-8. Carolina Forest High School of Myrtle Beach bombarded the Falcons 12-0 in the tournament's opening tilt. Fitch was also outscored 14-8 by Blue Ridge of South Carolina. Down 3-2 entering the fourth inning, Blue Ridge batted around to score six runs to take the lead for good. A five-run top of the seventh sealed the win. Misik went 3 for 4 with three ribbies. Myers had two hits and knocked in two.

Despite those two lopsided losses, Paris was pleased with the way his group performed in the tournament.

"Overall, it was a great trip," he said. "We faced kids with a lot of talent and teams that have already played 26 or 27 games. We also built a lot of team chemistry."

Coach Paris hopes he bottled up that chemistry and brought it back to Austintown with him. His brood is already battling uphill if they want to catch unbeaten Canfield in the Red Tier. Fitch will face off with the Cardinals on April 29 on the road and April 30 at home. Before playing Canfield, Paris' players will need to play well in two games with Howland. The Falcons were scheduled to tussle with the Tigers this past Monday and Tuesday. A sweep of Howland is the only way Fitch can stay alive for at least a share of the conference crown.

"We just returned Saturday from a long trip, so I'm concerned about a letdown," said Paris on Easter Sunday evening. "We need to win four in a row in the conference. We can't worry about Canfield. We have to worry about Howland."

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