AKRON, Ohio – When senior Michael Holdsworth arrived at St. Ignatius four years ago, he and the Wildcats had one goal, to win the state title.
Holdsworth and the Wildcats accomplished that goal Sunday as they defeated Mentor 4-2 at Canal Park on Sunday in 10 innings to win the Division I state baseball championship, the Wildcats’ first state title since 2002.
“The beginning of this year, though, we knew it was different,” Holdsworth said. “We felt a brotherhood, we were a family.”
As the Wildcats received their championship medals along the first base line, each player went to the side and waited for teammates to join them in celebration with the St. Ignatius student section.
“It just feels amazing,” Holdsworth said. “I couldn’t be here without my brothers, and I love them to death. It’s just one of the greatest feelings in the world right now.”
Tied 2-2 in the 10th, St. Ignatius junior Michael McNamara tripled to deep left. Senior Michael Holdsworth followed with an RBI double to break the deadlock. Holdsworth eventually scored after a failed pickoff and Mentor fielding error.
The Wildcats finished with nine hits, including four from senior DH Flynn Lenahan, who added an RBI.
Wildcats coach Brad Ganor, an assistant with the 2002 title team, said the Wildcats talk about that title team all the time. He’s proud of how the current edition has created the newest memory for the school’s athletic program.
“We’re going to be talking about 2019 for as long as we’ve been talking about 2002,” Ganor said. “It’s a special feeling.”
The Wildcats’ pitchers performed well in the win, too. Freshman Gabe Nard got the start, allowing a hit while striking out three in 4 2/3 innings. It was junior Luke Lashutka who recorded the win, working five innings with a hit and eight strikeouts. The depth of the Wildcats’ pitching staff came through as Ganor said he knew Nard would start after the Wildcats defeated Hilliard Darby in the state semifinal Friday.
“He’s a pretty special player if you’re going to have confidence to give him the ball in the state championship game as a freshman. That’s pretty special,” Ganor said.
Lashutka kept the Cardinals hitless from the sixth inning to the ninth.
“He pitched like a bulldog this entire tournament,” Ganor said of Lashutka. “He was great out of the bullpen.”
In the top of the sixth, Lenahan’s RBI single to right drove in sophomore Mathew Giberti to tie the game at 2. Mentor got out of a jam in the seventh, when St. Ignatius had the bases loaded with two outs and Holdsworth popped foul to Cardinals catcher Eric Coode.
The Cardinals trailed 1-0 in the fifth when sophomore Eric Coode’s sacrifice fly to left scored senior Tim Eppich to tie the game. When the ball eluded Goode, sophomore centerfielder Noah Gladish dashed from second and scored with a nifty slide at the plate.