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Falcons end season at sectional final

Fall to fourth-seeded Walsh Jesuit, 1-0

May 25, 2017
By Nik Zirounis , The Town Crier

Last May, the baseball teams from Austintown Fitch and Walsh Jesuit staged an epic battle in the Division I Struthers District state tournament.

Almost a year to that date, the two schools set up for another showdown in this season's sectional championship.

It would have been almost impossible to make last season's 2-1 pitcher's duel seem like a dud, but the game played May 11 may have done just that.

Walsh Jesuit won the game played in 2016 and, much to the dismay of Fitch fans, used almost the exact formula to claim victory once again a couple of weeks ago.

The fourth-seeded Warriors scored a solo run and made it stand up for a 1-0 triumph. Walsh's win put a cap on a season that felt like a roller coaster ride for the Falcons.

"We were so up and down (this year) it's hard to name many," Fitch head coach Joe Paris said when asked to site some of the highlights of this season. "We just couldn't put a streak together."

True to the Paris' words, his Falcons finished the regular campaign 11-11.

Fitch had the same .500 finish inside the All-American Conferences Red Tier standings, going 5-5. That mark left the Falcons in fourth place. Losing in the playoffs to the eventual district champions did not make things any easier for the Falcons.

Walsh Jesuit advanced to play Kent Roosevelt May 18, winning the division district semifinal, 15-5. The Warriors then battled the Boardman Spartans May 19 in the district final at Cene Park, where they won, 6-1. Walsh (18-8) will face Massillon Jackson (26-1) tonight in a regional semifinal at Canton.

But, Fitch put pressure on the Warriors the entire game May 11 but wasn't able to make a dent on the scoreboard.

"We had our opportunities but just couldn't get the big hit we needed," Paris said.

After the day finally ended with the Warriors celebrating in the middle of the diamond, Fitch's rookie coach informed his players they had no reason to hang their heads.

"I told the kids how clean they played and how much energy they played with," Paris said.

Bringing energy all year to the Fitch program was the group of six seniors who had their careers curtailed by the Warriors.

Zack Fuller and Chris Gerberry were in the starting lineup in the sectional final and came away hitless, but that score didn't mean the pair left without making an impact in their final campaigns.

Gerberry got to the plate 60 times in the regular season and compiled a .288 batting average with 14 RBIs Fuller fronted Fitch's batting order in the games he played and did a nice job leading off.

The other seniors who will need replaced are Blake Jeffries, J.C. Scott, Kameron Kosco and Joe Chepke. Chepke was one of Fitch's finest pitchers, hurling close to 20 innings and earning three wins.

The hard-luck losing pitcher against the Warriors was sophomore slinger Kenny Misik. He scattered six hits in the sectional championship, allowing just one run.

Misik also struck out seven Warrior batters. He finished his first season as a varsity starter with a 3-2 record and a glowing 1.78 ERA. He also fanned 57. No doubt Misik will be Fitch's ace on the hill as a junior.

Joining Misik next year should be a strong supporting cast that all gained a lot of varsity experience this spring.

Nick DeSalvo and Nick Bianco both pitched a number of games this year, so they will be around to aid Misik on the mound.

Bianco also had 14 RBIs as a hitter. Robby Russo had two hits versus Walsh Jesuit. Mike Grazier had a double and ended 2017 with a .305 batting average, 13 ribbies and four steals.

Malik Cage transferred to Fitch this past offseason and left a mark by hitting .369, knocking in 15 runs, scoring 13 times and totaling 27 bases.

Vinny Direnzo and Kole Klasic were steady middle infielders and good hitters. Direnzo smacked the ball at a .290 clip, while Klasic collected a .300 average and a .400 slugging percentage.

Cole Constance was a constant in Paris' order, hitting .286. He also hurled 24 innings, spinning a scintillating 2.37 ERA.

Adding to the above-mentioned group are a few younger Falcons who split time between the big club and junior varsity squad and should be ready to stay on the permanent roster next year.

All of these young athletes should make Paris' second season as bench boss even smoother than his first. The coach said he learned a lot during his initial campaign and had a great time in the process, but there was one thing that stood out to him more than any win.

"Being able to come to the field each day and being around my players was the best part," Paris said.



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