The Irish will meet Millbury Lake Friday in the Division III semifinal.
By BILL SULLIVAN
VINDICATOR SPORTS STAFF
YOUNGSTOWN -- At Ursuline High, baseball is a winning tradition.
It's become a tradition, for instance, to forgo a lofty win-loss record in order to play an aggressive schedule. Regular season losses have had a way of transforming the team into postseason champs.
Ursuline manager Sean Durkin is quick to point out that all four varsity coaches played for Matt Giambattista, the Ursuline coach who won a state title in 1988.
Durkin and Bill Metzinger were members of that Irish title squad; Randy Rair played for Giambattista at Ursuline and A.J. Perfilio played for him at Chaney.
The Irish will continue defense of their Division III state championship in a semifinal game Friday at Bill Davis Stadium on the Ohio State campus. Don't be deceived by the 18-9 record.
Ursuline was not ranked in the coaches poll and wasn't top-seeded in the sectional tournament.
Last spring the Irish weren't ranked either, but beat Versailles 4-3 for the state crown.
Rolled in regional: The Irish ran through the regional at Massillon. Junior John Angelo threw a two-hitter and struck out 14 in a 6-0 semifinal win over Wellington. The next day Ursuline met Chagrin Falls, ranked fourth in the state, for the championship.
Senior pitcher James Moorhead held the Tigers in check and the Irish pounded out a 13-1 win.
"Last year the same thing happened to us and we used that to our advantage," Durkin said of not being noticed by the poll voters.
"We told the kids 'you have to earn your respect.' Some of the kids were surprised [they weren't ranked]. We told them we have to use it as a tool. We have to go out and do it on our own."
The nine losses are a result of a trying schedule; three setbacks came to Div. I Boardman, which is also in Columbus this weekend.
"When we schedule, we try not to put any automatic wins on the board," Durkin said.
The Irish were scheduled to practice at Ohio Wesleyan University's facility today. The school is located just north of Columbus. Ken Conatser, a member of the Ohio State football coaching staff, will take them for a tour of Davis Stadium Friday prior to the semifinal game.
According to Durkin, once the Irish "get their nerves under control," they should be able to play in the big game against Millbury Lake (21-5), a team that has not been to the state since 1935.
After graduating most of the championship team last June, the Irish took their lumps early on.
"When the year started we were young and inexperienced," Durkin said. "We knew the road would be tough. But then the kids matured and the leadership took over.
"Last year we were pretty dominating on the pitching mound. This year our pitching has been good but not great. Our defense is good and the hitting is real good."
Eyes third title: One of the leaders is senior Justin Adams, who goes for his third state title in 12 months. He was a regular on the baseball team last spring and played on Ursuline's Div. IV state championship football team. So did Angelo, Friday's starting pitcher.
Durkin called the fan support "phenomenal," another Ursuline tradition. Friday at the regional there seemed to be more Irish fans than the other three teams drew combined.
They will take chartered busses to Columbus again, expecting another title.