Eagles capture 4th consecutive district crown with 2-0 win

Staff photo / Brian Yauger Kennedy celebrates with the trophy after winning its fourth-straight district title on Thursday. The Eagles took down Mineral Ridge 2-0 to win.

NILES — Kennedy’s senior class completed a district sweep on Thursday, helping the program win its fourth consecutive district title in a 2-0 win over Mineral Ridge.

It wasn’t the prettiest of wins according to coach Jim Ciambotti, but come tournament time, a win is all you can ask for.

“Since I’ve been here, I’ve always said that pitching and defense is going to be our foundation, because it gives you a chance, even if you struggle offensively, to win the ball game,” Ciambotti said. “Even a little bit today, it wasn’t pretty offensively, but when you have good pitching and you have good defense, it gives you a chance.”

That pitching performance came from the arm of junior Freddy Bolchalk, who sat nine in the victory.

Having a 1A/1B pitching rotation like the Eagles have has been a blessing. Bolchalk and Jaden Rishel have traded time on the mound this season, and both have been reliable arms.

Kennedy generated just two runs during the game. The first came in the second, with Andrew Lapolla being knocked home by Santino Ciambotti, and Ciambotti was sent home by Dom Ryan in the fifth.

Going forward, Ciambotti wants to see more offense from his team.

It starts with consistency.

“Just a little bit more consistency,” he said. “A little bit more production with runners in scoring position. We just have to do a better job. The top of our lineup and the middle of our lineup has to be a little bit more consistent in their offensive play.”

Throughout this run, the team’s experience has been paramount. With now four district titles for the Eagles the last four years, the impact of them “knowing how to win” can’t be overstated.

With really tough teams on the horizon if they plan to reach that goal, it only gets more important.

“They know what it takes, but there’s going to be some real good ball clubs at the regionals,” Ciambotti said. “We have to play better offensively than we’ve done over the last week to compete because there’s some really good stuff from all the clubs that are going to be there.”

Mineral Ridge ends its season at 14-8. Despite the loss, Rams coach Anthony Ragozine sees plenty to build on going forward.

“I saw no quit,” Ragozine said. “It’s a young team and they went up against those guys but had no quit and no fear. Nothing but pride for these guys.”

Over half of Mineral Ridge’s starters for Thursday’s game were underclassmen — four sophomores and freshman pitcher Nick Anderson.

With so many talented players returning to the squad, the expectations next year will only grow. It’s on the players to rise to the challenge.

“Hopefully these guys really get to work,” Ragozine said. “If they put the work in that’s necessary, I think anything’s possible. The potential is there. We have a really good core of young talented sophomores and freshmen and eighth graders coming up, so it just depends on the work that these guys put in the offseason coming in next year.

“I think this is the first time they’ve been to a district title game since like, 1943. I know none of these guys have ever tasted this before. Hopefully, and I told them today, ‘Don’t put your head down. You just went toe to toe with one of the best teams in the area. Let it fuel you and get to work.”

Have an interesting story? Contact Brian Yauger by email at byauger@tribtoday.com. Follow him on X, formerly Twitter, @_brianyauger.

Warren JFK 2, Mineral Ridge 0

MR: 000 000 0 — 0 3 2

JFK: 010 010 X — 2 5 0

WP: Bolchalk (7 IP, 9 Ks, 1 BB). LP: Anderson (6 IP, 1 K, 3 BB). 2+ HITS: K: Ciambotti. DOUBLES: K: Ciambotti.


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