AKRON – St. Ignatius made the Division I state baseball final an all-Northeast Ohio affair Friday with a 13-inning 4-3 state semifinal victory over Hilliard Darby Friday at Canal Park.
The Wildcats advance to the state championship for the first time since 2013, facing Mentor Sunday morning at 10 a.m. in Canal Park. They’ll be seeking their first title since 2002.
St. Ignatius broke the tie in the top of the 13th when senior Michael Holdsworth hit a sacrifice fly to center to score senior second baseman AJ Gaich from third. Gaich started the 13th with a single up the middle, and went to third on junior Michael McNamara’s one-out single.
St. Ignatius entered the fourth inning without a hit and trailing the Panthers 2-0. But Gaich got the inning started with a triple to left field. With one out and the bases loaded, senior catcher Austin Jones singled to drive in Gaich and McNamara. An out later, senior left fielder Matthew Geraci singled to center to score Holdsworth for a 3-2 lead.
The Wildcats finished with seven hits. Geraci, Gaich and McNamara each had two hits and Jones had one.
Junior Nick Fletcher got the win with five scoreless innings of relief, recording two strikeouts. Senior Andrew Mulhern started and allowed two runs over 3 2/3 innings. He was followed by junior Luke Lashutka, who struck out two and didn’t allow a run over 2 1/3 innings. Senior Matt Ferritto threw two innings, allowing a run and whiffing two.
“I thought they battled,” St. Ignatius coach Brad Ganor said of his pitching staff. “We threw more pitchers than we wanted to, but every one of those guys battled their hearts out to give us a chance to win the game.”
The Panthers tied the game at 3 in the seventh, but wasted a chance to take control when senior third baseman Kyle Miller hit into a double play with the bases loaded. Andrew Patrick, who had three hits, scored the tying run. Ferritto struck out Panthers senior Drew Snyder to send the game into extra innings.
Patrick led the Panthers with three hits and two stolen bases. The Panthers finished with nine hits and left 16 players on base.
Hilliard Darby junior Connor Maruniak started and allowed three runs in four innings. The hard-luck loser was senior Seth Schmidt, who worked nine innings, allowing just four hits, striking out four.
As St. Ignatius prepares Sunday, Ganor said he’s not concerned with how his pitching staff will fare despite the extra work required Friday.
“We have a great team, and it’s not two arms,” Ganor said. “That’s the best part about this team is we’re not relying on just two pitchers. We used four guys today. We have other guys and they’re ready to go on Sunday. We’ll enjoy today, and Sunday will come, and we’ll be ready to go.”