Canfield improves to 7-0 with shutout win
CANFIELD — Having a third strong pitcher in a high school baseball team’s starting rotation is a luxury.
Junior Ryan Petro is proving that for the soaring Canfield Cardinals.
In his second varsity start on Wednesday, Petro tossed a three-hitter in a 2-0 win over visiting Howland in a late-developed spring tournament.
“He pitched a one-hitter the first game out and now a three-hitter,” said coach Gary Knittle, whose team improved to 7-0 and will play at Fitch at 7 p.m. today in the championship of the eight-team, two-pool event. “Ryan threw a lot of strikes and we talk about that a lot.
“He had one walk today and that was the second batter of the game. He’s earned his spot and taken on that role of lengthening our rotation and giving our top two pitchers a break where they won’t have to throw as many innings.”
Junior Landon Beidelschies, who is expected to be the starter in the championship, is the team’s ace, and junior Nate Shaw is being counted on as the No. 2 starter.
“Landon is one of the top pitchers in the state and he’s committed to West Point,” Knittle said. “Nate has committed to pitch at Wright State. He played shortstop today. You’ve got those two guys and then you have Ryan, and when he pitches, we get to keep Nate at shortstop. Ryan is making things easier on us in that sense, but now you begin to think he might by vying to move up in the rotation. He’s been that good.”
When the annual spring-break trip down south was abandoned due to COVID-19, Knittle said he wanted to host a tournament and began calling teams from northeast Ohio. They pulled eight teams for two pools and have played games at Fitch and Canfield this week.
The Cardinals won their pool by defeating Newton Falls, 11-1, Akron Firestone, 7-0, and then Howland. Fitch won its pool by beating Cleveland Benedictine, 6-0, Elyria, 7-0, and Notre Dame Cathedral Latin, 10-2.
“We’ve already played some very, very good competition,” Knittle said. “We’re the only team that has beaten Salem thus far and we saw their No. 1 pitcher who has committed to Youngstown State. Then we saw (Akron) Hoban’s ace, who has committed to Cincinnati and we took it to them, and they were ranked third in the state at the time. So we know we’ll see everybody’s ace as much as possible.”
That included Howland’s ace, Braden Gebhardt, who limited Canfield to five hits. But the Tigers also made three errors, with the last being in the fourth inning when the hosts took a 1-0 lead. A.J. Havrilla drew a leadoff walk and went to second on a one-out single from Dom Magliocca. Petro then reached on an error to load the bases and Nate Shaw’s well-place infield single between third base and shortstop got the job done.
Gebhardt though, wriggled out of further trouble as he enticed a grounder that turned into a force out at home plate and then a pop-out.
“I knew all I needed was a run, and when we got that in the fourth, I had the confidence to know that’s all I needed today,” Petro said. “I knew I could finish it out. ”
Petro retired 10 of the first 11 batters he faced after that early walk. He yielded his first hit with one out in the fourth, a single by Austen Price. He promptly picked him off first base. An error and a single by Anthony Massucci put runners on first and second. But then Petro whirled and threw to second baseman Havrilla to pick off the leading runner.
“We work on our pitchers and how to control the run game,” Knittle said. “We’ve seen Howland twice this week and they like to run. If you can take that away from them, it’s big, especially in a one- or two-run game.”
“Two picks in one inning. It’s a rarity,” Howland coach Zach Byler sad. “It was a very nice timing play at second base. We’ve been working on being aggressive on the bases, so I’m not going to get too bummed about it. Their pitcher not only threw a heck of a game, but he has quick movements and quick feet and he got us twice there. But we’re going to stay aggressive.”
It was the only time all game Howland had a runner reach second base safely.
Canfield left the bases loaded again in the fifth, but got an insurance run in the sixth. With one out, Brock Lowry walked, Gianni Gaetano singled and Josh Juliano walked. Ben Slanker then got a sacrifice fly with his deep liner to center field.
Petro finished with seven strikeouts.
“I knew Howland is a good team and that I’d have to bring my A-game, so I was ready for a close one,” Petro said. “I was able to throw strikes and my team played solid defense in the field. I felt good in the bullpen, but I never know if that means anything until I’ve pitched an inning. That’s usually when I get a feel for how things are going to go.”
Gebhardt, a southpaw, struck out five and walked four.
“Howland came in undefeated and we know they’re good,” Knittle said. “I tipped my cap to Braden and went over talked to him. We saw him as a freshman and I see him in the summer and I know him very well. He pitched a heck of a game.”