By Steve Wilaj
Time and time again, the spirit of the 11-12 Canfield Little League baseball team was put to the test in its run to another state tournament appearance.
First, Canfield trailed Poland early in its opening tournament game before winning by five.
Then, Canfield fell behind by three runs to Boardman before, again, winning by five. The next night, Howland jumped ahead in the semifinals, 4-1, before Canfield rallied for a 5-4 victory.
The least dramatic contest was a 2-0 victory against Boardman to clinch a trip to the Little League State Tournament in Cambridge, but through the stretch of four games, Canfield head coach George Beck certainly learned one thing about his team.
“They’re just a resilient group,” he said. “Each time, the kids found a way to keep their poise and get it done and come back. It’s a great group of kids with a lot of heart and a lot of composure.”
The Canfield roster is as follows: Dominic Pilolli, Seth Velker, Ethan Fletcher, Brayden Beck, McCoy Watkins, Richie Hofus, Walt Sweeney, Jake Kowal, Jimmy Maass, Cole Rothbauer, Cole Morell, Evan Skripac and Brandon Mikos.
“They’ve been together for many years and have faced adversity in the past,” Beck said. “Sometimes we overcome it and other times it gets the best of us. This year, we’ve handled it very well.”
In turn, Canfield will play its opening state tournament game on Sunday at 10 a.m. in Cambridge against the winner of a game today.
“The kids are extremely excited,” Beck said. “Last year, we got to the state tournament and it didn’t go the way we expected or planned it to go. So they’re seeing this as another opportunity.”
Last year, the same Canfield squad reached the 10-11 year-old state Little League tournament in North Canton, but was bounced early. Beck noticed a major difference in this year’s team.
“They have a little more confidence in themselves,” he said. “I don’t see the heads falling down — just a lot of determination coming back into the dugout after we got down and a lot of positive vibes.
“It speaks great volumes not only to the kids, but also to the families.”
With that newfound resiliency, Beck and Canfield likes its chances at state — even if his players fall behind.
“We’re gonna try to remind them that every time they step on the field that it can be their last game and try to put a little more drive into them, although they sure have enough already,” Beck said. “We’re gonna put forth our best effort to represent the Canfield Baseball Club and our district.”