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Archrival ends Cardinals' season shy of district goal
May 29, 2019

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A win over Alliance in the Division II Struthers District semifinals continued the Canfield baseball team's super season and sent the Cardinals into the district championship.

The top seeded Cardinals were looking like a great bet to win the district for the third consecutive time. That chance became greater when number two seed Poland was eliminated from the tournament in the sectional round by Hubbard a week earlier. When the Eagles were forced to forfeit their two tournament wins by the Ohio High School Athletic Association, the Bulldogs were advanced into the district round. They upended Niles in their semifinal to set up the district title dream match between the former arch rivals. Canfield probably wishes Poland never received its reprieve.

It took two days to complete due to harsh weather, but in the end the Cardinals had to face the harsh reality that their preseason goal of winning another district title would come to an end. Gaffes both in the field and on the bases helped end Canfield's season with an 8-7 loss in the district final. The Cardinals' season came to a close with a 17-6 record.

"You got to tip your cap (to Poland)," said Canfield head coach Gary Knittle following the season ending setback. "They were down five runs and battled back."

Indeed, Knittle's bunch held a 7-2 lead late in the contest, but the Bulldogs belted their way back to a 7-7 tie. Poland would forge ahead to take an 8-7 lead, but Canfield had one last card up their uniform sleeve. The first two Cardinals reached base in the bottom of the seventh presenting Canfield's rookie head coach with an interesting decision. He could let senior Danny Beistel swing away and try to win the game with one hack. Or, he could call for the sacrifice bunt to move both baserunners into scoring position with less than two outs. Knittle called on his small ball mentality and decided to lay one down. Unfortunately, that decision was costly because Beistel bunted the ball up into the air. The popup was caught by Poland and turned into a double play. Dom Magliocca then struck out to end the Cardinals' post season run.

Canfield's usually superb pitching staff was off its game against the Bulldogs. Brayden Beck started the game and was relieved by Brent Herrmann and Michael Budde. Budde was tagged with the loss after giving up five earned runs. Four Canfield errors and three base running booboos didn't help either.

"My guess is we made maybe 10 errors the entire season," said Knittle about his team's surprisingly shoddy defense versus Poland.

Senior Ricky Havrilla playing in what ended up being his final high school game had a double, a run and two runs batted in to help lead Canfield's offense. Beck was 2 for 4 with two RBIs and a run scored. Seth Velker also had a ribbie.

Besides Havrilla, Canfield will have to also say goodbye to senior stars such as Beistel, Budde, Jad Jaddallah, Dante Flak, Chance Merlin, Evan Skripac and Dom Pilolli. Pilolli will be playing next year at the University of North Carolina Charlotte. His speed, athleticism and leadership will certainly be missed on the Canfield campus.

Jadallah had one last big day as a Cardinal when he slugged a two-run single to spur his team's five run rally in the fifth inning of its district semifinal win over Alliance. That 8-3 comeback victory over the Aviators gave Canfield its final win of 2019. Budde had two hits, a run and an RBI. Merlin and Velker had RBI singles. Beck had two hits including a triple, two ribbies and two runs.

Beck will also spearhead a strong group of juniors who will become senior leaders next spring. Herrmann will return to help Beck both at the plate and on the bump. Velker, Magliocca and Nate Shaw will also be back. The Cardinals will be attempting to rebound from their disappointing ending to this campaign and defend their All American Conference championship. They will also try to capture their third district title in four years. If they have to eliminate the hated Bulldogs to do it, then so be it.

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