Cardinals beat Boardman, advance to state tournament
By Ryan Buck
There was nothing too significant about the small northwest Ohio town of Bryan (population 8,500, for the Canfield 9-10 year-old Little League baseball team. Until Sunday, that is.
It’s merely an hour-and-a-half from Cedar Point, but more importantly it’s also where the Cardinals are going to play in the state baseball tournament, which begins July 26.
Their 5-3 victory Sunday over Boardman Little League in the district championship game at Fields of Dreams ensured them of their impending journey.
Four first-inning runs and stellar relief pitching in their second win over Boardman in the tournament sent the kids from Canfield on their way.
“It’s a big moment,” said Canfield coach Kevin Burdette. “We knew it was going to be a tough ballgame from the get-go. We had played Boardman before [a 2-0 win in the tournament opener]. They have a great team and we knew we were going to have to get the bats going early.
“We did that and we were aggressive on the bases.”
After Boardman lead-off hitter Sean O’Horo doubled and scored in the top of the first inning, Canfield’s offense responded right away.
Tony Pannunzio, Ben Slanker and Drew Corrocce all hit safely with Pannunzio scoring Canfield’s first run on Corrocce’s double. One batter later, Colin Burdette’s triple to the right field corner brought Slanker and Corrocce home for a 3-1 lead. Christopher Altier followed with an RBI single.
“We pushed a few runs across and that set the tone for the rest of the game for us,” said Kevin Burdette.
A day after taking a 10-0 third-inning lead against South Range, Boardman was on the other end of an early deficit.
“We can’t give them a couple extra outs and it’s hard enough to get three outs,” said Boardman coach John Ryan. “You do that and it leads to four runs.
“Our kids fought back, but it was an uphill battle from there.”
In the second, Carter Mraz reached safely, advanced on a wild pitch then scored on an error to cut Boardman’s deficit to two runs, but a crafty Corrocce catch-and-flip to Ryan Petro at second base allowed Canfield to escape the inning.
Pannunzio kept Boardman at bay before giving way to Colin Burdette in the fourth.
Trey DePietro managed to score Boardman’s third run on a wild pitch, but some well-timed off-speed pitches from Burdette and a groundout to second base stranded the tying run on third base.
“He came in and pitched really well and got us through a couple innings,” Kevin Burdette said of his son, Colin. “He did exactly as planned.”
Canfield pushed an insurance run across the plate in the bottom of the inning. With one out and runners on second and third, Landon Beidelschies brought Jake Grdic home on a well-executed bunt-and-steal play.
Grdic closed out the game for Canfield on the mound as no Boardman baserunner advanced past second base.
“We’ve learned over the past three years that a game is never over until it’s over,” Burdette said, “and we teach out-by-out for six innings.”