Canfield Cardinals fall to Tallmadge in state finals, finish season at 24-3

Staff photo / Brian Yauger Canfield's Assistant coach Barb Balestrino consoles Leah Figueroa (27) and Macey Kalina (25).

AKRON — At this stage of the season, there can only be one winner.

On Saturday, Canfield was on the short end of the stick, falling to Tallmadge 9-0 in the Division II state championship game at Firestone Stadium in Akron. The Cardinals end the season 24-3-2.

But despite falling short, the Cardinals’ run is something the program hasn’t seen since it won its first and only state championship in 2008.

“It’s been awesome — last year we were good, but we didn’t make it as far,” said senior Gianna Pannunzio of the team’s regular season and postseason run. “This year, at the beginning, we didn’t know that we were capable of making it this far. So it’s been a lot of fun to be a part of, and I’m proud of my teammates.”

Pannunzio said it took a couple games at the beginning of the year, but once the wins started piling up, the team felt it had the makings of something special.

“It’s been a great group, with great seniors and great leadership,” said head coach Michael Kernan. “Obviously we have a nucleus of talent and a tremendous pitcher in Malena Toth. But the leadership of the group, with the eight seniors we have — we’ve been working out since September, October and November — and there was no hesitation for their leadership or their dedication to committing to building the foundation of the program.”

Building a foundation is something that Kernan has emphasized since he took over the program before the start of the season.

A solid crop of players, with strong school, administrative and community support, are some of the reasons why Kernan wanted to coach the Cardinals.

After laying a foundation with this group this season, the Cardinals are set for the future with a core group set to return to continue to build on what they accomplished.

“We’ve been carrying some youth along our run, and we had seniors that were steady and part of the lineup all year that helped nurture the younger kids throughout the season,” Kernan said. “They’re only going to be that much more mature and stronger (next year). With the culture we’re implementing here, that’s just going to carry over from one year into the next, and it’s going to be a nice benefit for us next year.”

The Blue Devils had been hot with their bats all throughout the postseason, and the Cardinals struggled to quell Tallmadge’s offensive firepower. The Blue Devils finished with 11 hits against Canfield’s combination of Malena Toth and Bella Kennedy in the circle.

“They were hitting on all cylinders, and I knew that they’ve always hit the ball well,” Kernan said. “They showed us a little bit of a better team, but I knew as I was following them throughout the tournament that they were maxing out and playing their best ball come tournament time.”

After three scoreless innings for both teams, Tallmadge did all of their damage in the fourth and fifth innings, exploding for five runs in the fourth inning and four runs in the fifth.

“I think that our team does very well with using the first time through the batting order to really time things up and we talk to each other a lot,” said Tallmadge’s Mia Zappola. “Then the second time around, we’re really dominant just attacking the ball.”

Canfield finished with just two hits, and managed to get five base runners, but couldn’t convert those into runs.’

“I thought we could have mustered an early run, and that always makes a difference,” Kernan said. “But they started getting the bat on the ball a little bit and finding a couple holes and it just powered on from there.”


Today's breaking news and more in your inbox

I'm interested in (please check all that apply)
Are you a paying subscriber to the newspaper? *

Starting at $2.99/week.

Subscribe Today