Cardinals tops Niles again in district final
another district title
by beating Niles
By Dan Hiner
The Canfield baseball team has a fondness for winning district titles in pairs.
The Cardinals won back-to-back titles in 2006-07 and 2011-12. Now the Cardinals can add the 2017-18 seasons to the list.
Canfield pitcher Ian McGraw led the Cardinals to a 6-0 victory over Niles in the Division II district final Wednesday at Cene Park.
The Cardinals’ lefty pitched a complete game, allowing four hits and no walks while striking out four.
All four of the Red Dragon’s hits were singles and Niles (14-12) never had a runner advance into scoring position.
McGraw had a perfect game going into the fourth inning, but a leadoff single by Zach Leonard gave the Red Dragons their first base runner. Leonard pulled a letter-high fastball to left field.
“Honestly, I didn’t even know [about a perfect game],” McGraw said. “They told me after and I was more upset with the pitch I made than them actually getting the hit.”
Leonard finished with two of Niles’ four hits. The others came from Joe Gallo and Kenny Flanigan.
The Cardinals (19-7) scored four runs in the top of the first. McGraw helped himself with a two-run bloop single to left field to get Canfield on the board.
It wasn’t exactly how McGraw imagined, but he like the result.
“I was hoping it was deep enough for a guy on third to tag,” McGraw said. “But just because it dropped, it made a lot of things better with two runs coming in. That helped a lot actually.”
Angelo Petracci followed with an RBI double and Jimmy Fitzgerald hit a sacrifice fly to drive home McGraw.
“We really needed that to start the game out, especially to give our pitcher confidence going in,” Petracci said.
Canfield’s Dominic Pilolli hit an RBI triple in the sixth inning to score Canfield’s final run.
After the four-run first, Niles pitcher Dillon Weida pitched three shutout innings.
Weida allowed five runs, two earned, on three hits and five walks. He also struck out three in 4 2/3 innings.
“[Weida] pitched really well ... five hits. If you’d have told me we’d only give up five hits, I’d have felt pretty good about our chances of winning the game,” Niles head coach Mike Guarnieri said.
Guarnieri felt his pitching was good enough to win, but the Red Dragons were unable to bounce back after the first inning.
Canfield also beat Niles in the district final last season. This time around, the mood was a little different according to Cardinals head coach Matt Koenig.
“Last year we were kind of nervous,” he said. “This year — we talked about it before we came here — the fact that we’ve been here before and hopefully it carries over. At least defensively, it definitely did.”
Canfield will play the Jefferson district winner at The Ball Park at Hudson on Thursday.
“These guys, they work hard, they believe in themselves, they believe in what we’re trying to do and here’s the result right here,” Koenig said.
“These guys got on a little bit of a role and it feels good now. That’s for sure.”