Canfield says farewell to 14 seniors
By Tom Williams
After a crushing loss to end the season, many teams scatter as quickly as possible. The Canfield High School baseball team lingered Friday after the final team huddle broke.
Head coach Matt Koenig offered hugs to each player, 14 of whom will not play another high school baseball game.
“When he gets emotional, it kind of reboots to us, especially after that talk,” senior Ian McGraw said after Friday’s 17-0 loss to regional archrival Tallmadge in the Division II regional final at The Ballpark at Hudson. “It was heartbreaking.
“We’re losing 14 seniors including myself [so] it’s basically a rebuilding year for the team next year,” the pitcher/outfielder said. “They can do it.”
Koenig said team huddles break with the word “family.” He credits playing for John Cullen, Canfield’s long-time basketball coach now at South Range, for instilling those values.
“He’s been a mentor of mine for a long time,” Koenig said of Cullen. “When I was a senior in high school, I remember him getting emotional at our banquet and that told me right there that it’s OK for a grown man to get emotional.
“Even though sometimes these guys make fun of me for doing that, it just shows you that put so much time and effort into it that it matters to us. It matters to everybody.”
A day after everything went right for the Cardinals (20-9) in a 10-1 win over Chardon, the opposite happened against the defending state champions.
The Blue Devils scored three times in the top of the first inning, then added 11 more in the third inning.
A Canfield defensive highlight came in the second inning. With one out, Tallmadge’s Rich Eyre was at third base and Philip Glasser at first. Cards pitcher Jack Rafoth tossed to first baseman Spencer Woolley, who saw Eyre break for home. Woolley threw a strike to catcher Angelo Petracci who tagged the Blue Devil out.
“We practice those situations every day,” said Petracci, who will graduate with six varsity letters (three for football, three for baseball). “We saw he had a huge lead and it looked like he was very anxious to go.
“We prepare for that but we kind of got a little lucky there even with the call on,” Petracci said. “I think it was a pickoff to third, but he went to first. It all worked out.”
Anthony Longo relieved Rafoth with nobody out in the third inning and Tallmadge (18-11) ahead 6-0. He retired the next two batters with flyouts, but Koenig had to relieve him with sophomore Brayden Beck to end the inning.
Jared Burick tossed a five-inning three-hitter to earn the win. Petracci’s two hits included a double. Jimmy Fitzgerald also singled.
“We’re proud to be here,” Koenig said. “They blessed the coaches with a little bit more time with them.”
The other seniors are Longo, Fitzgerald, Rafoth, Woolley, Alex Hernandez, Drew Havrilla, Nick Piersante, Nick Ieraci, Michael Johns, Richie Juliano, Jared Yohman and Kyle Willis.
Petracci won’t be surprised if Tallmadge repeats.
“There’s no doubt they are good enough,” he said. “They hit the ball all around the field, I wish them the best of luck.”