Longo provides relief in battle of birds
By Greg Gulas
Canfield Cardinals head coach Matt Koenig doesn’t hesitate using Anthony Longo as a starter during the regular season.
Come tournament time, Longo embraces his closer role.
Longo threw two strong innings in relief of Jack Rafoth, allowing just one hit, and Ian McGraw’s two-run double in the fifth inning broke a 2-2 tie to lead Canfield to a 4-3 win over Cardinal Mooney in the Division II district semifinals Tuesday at Bob Cene Park.
The Cardinals will now meet Niles — also a 4-3 winner over Poland — at 6:30 p.m. today in a rematch of last year’s district final.
“Cardinal Mooney has some excellent pitchers and Brandon Mikos is always around the plate,” McGraw said. “My mindset was to just pull the ball and advance the runners. I was thinking fastball and when it came in, I was able to drive it into the gap for the go-ahead runs.”
Rafoth went five strong innings but was pulled in favor of Longo after allowing a lead-off walk to Jake Fonderlin in the sixth inning.
He scattered five hits during his mound stint.
“I have an excellent defense behind me, so the goal was to throw strikes and get ground balls,” Rafoth said. “When Anthony came on in relief, I had no doubts he would get the job done.”
Longo, who faced the minimum six batters during his appearance, is used to coming on with the game on the line.
“As a closer, I’ve been in this situation before and really like that role,” Longo said. “My breaking ball was working, but the key was being able to locate my fastball and hit my spots.”
The Cardinals (16-5) took the early 1-0 lead after Johnnie Mikos led off the game with a walk, stole second and then raced home on a double by Fonderlin.
In the third inning, Canfield (18-7) tied the game when Rick Havrilla doubled and scored on a two-out single by Dominic Pilolli.
Cardinal Mooney regained the lead in the fifth inning courtesy of the Mikos brothers, coming after the first two batters of the inning were easily retired.
Freshman Brandon Mikos singled to left, swiped second then scored the go-ahead run when brother, Johnnie, followed with a run-scoring single up the middle.
The lead was short-lived, however, as Canfield found its groove at the plate in its half of the inning, scoring three times to forge a 4-2 lead.
Pilolli tripled with one out and scored the tying run when Spencer Woolley followed with a single. Longo then walked and after McGraw doubled, both Woolley and Longo scored to stake Canfield to a 4-2 lead.
Pilolli was perfect at the plate, hitting safely twice (including a triple) and walking twice, one of which was intentional.
“I knew they would throw me off-speed stuff, but with a 3-2 count I was thinking fastball and was able to drive it,” Pilolli noted.
Cardinal Mooney pulled to within 4-3 in the sixth inning after Fonderlin led off with a walk, advanced to second on a single by Anthony Potesta, moved to third on Antonio Page’s flyout and scored when Potesta got caught in a rundown for the final out of the inning.
“I thought when we were able to pickle in our third run in the sixth inning, that we would have the steam in the seventh inning, but Longo shut us down,” Mooney head coach Al Franceschelli said. “Canfield is a good team and both teams played really well today.”
Canfield head coach Matt Koenig said the rivalry between the two teams brings out the best in each of them.
“Any time Cardinal Mooney and Canfield get together you can expect a nice crowd and an intense game. There’s never a blowout,” Koenig said. “Hitting is contagious and you saw that in the fifth inning when we scored those three runs. We knew it was in there somewhere and tonight we had just enough to squeak by.”