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Matchup with Massillon Washington awaits Spartans in sectional starter
May 8, 2019

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Certainly, an 11-11 record is not exactly the mark the Boardman baseball team aspired to have this late in the season.

Unfortunately, that's where the Spartans sit as they await the start of the Division I Sectional Tournament. This past Sunday evening, the Spartans learned that they will enter the playoffs as the ninth seed in the North Canton District. On May 14, Boardman will travel to Massillon to face eighth seeded Washington. Traditionally, a tussle between the Tigers and the Spartans on the football gridiron would be a historic event. There isn't as much fanfare when the two schools duke it out on the diamond, but Boardman head coach Joe Gabriel is confident that his outfit has what it takes to tame the Tigers and the rest of the tournament field.

"I believe we have the talent to make a run in an extremely difficult Division I district bracket," said Gabriel last weekend. "We need to continue to get better each game prior to the tourney. Our seniors will lead the way."

True to Gabriel's words, it was some of his senior class that led his team to wins over Warren Harding and Champion last week. Boardman blew out the Warren kids 10-0 on April 29 then bounced back from a revenge win by the Raiders to clip Champion 5-2 on May 2. That triumph at Cene Park evened Boardman's season ledger.

Seniors Travis Henry and Mike Fetsko both had big days at the plate against the Golden Flashes. Henry went 2 for 3 and scored a run. Fetsko had a run scoring hit and also scored a run himself. The winning pitcher was senior slinger Shay Eicher who threw effectively in three innings of work. Eicher did not allow a run and fanned three Flashes. Coming off the disappointing loss to Harding, a win over an established program like Champion left a good taste in Coach Gabriel's mouth.

"We bounced back against a good Champion team," he said. "We played with a lot of energy and our seniors played well."

While senior Luke Stauffer was the top Spartan hitter in the win over the Raiders on April 29, it was a junior who did the job from the mound. Tyler Peterson worked the entire game without allowing a run. He only scattered three hits and struck out eight along the way. Boardman bounced out to a 1-0 lead after one frame then exploded for seven runs in the fourth to take the Raiders out. Stauffer slugged three hits for the Spartans.

That victory had Boardman riding a five game winning streak, but it was snapped in Warren by a narrow 1-0 margin. Although his boys have now won six out of seven games, that one setback last Wednesday really hit Gabriel hard.

"It was a tough loss," he said. "We did not play well."

The Spartans will have plenty of opportunities to get better before the tournament. They were set to play every day this week aside from Wednesday. Scheduled foes included Lakeview, Green, Grand Valley of Orwell and powerful Poland.

Next week's playoff match at Massillon is one that may not be as challenging as it sounds. Even though the Spartans sit at .500, they haven't been as mediocre looking as the 11-11 Tigers have been lately. Massillon was shut out by Cuyahoga Falls 4-0 last Saturday and lost 10-3 to Uniontown Lake a few days prior. Of course, Lake is one of the top seeds in the Division I North Canton District so it may not be fair to hassle the Tigers for that one. Overall, the Tigers have won just two of their past three contests. Whoever advances past this sectional semifinal will have the unenviable task of taking on top seed Massillon Jackson in the finals. The Polar Bears are 17-2 this year and have already whitewashed the Spartans 11-0 on Opening Day back in March.

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