Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Historic Huskies
May 29, 2014 by Jay Scott | No Comments

The Cardinal Huskies baseball team reached historic heights last week when they defeated the Champion Golden Flashes 5-3 to reach the OHSAA district semi-final for …

The Cardinal Huskies baseball team reached historic heights last week when they defeated the Champion Golden Flashes 5-3 to reach the OHSAA district semi-final for the first time since 2004.

But the 4-1 setback in the districts will not be soon forgotten by the six seniors that left it all on the field.

In contrast, the team they faced in the district opener, the Garfield G-Men, were making their sixth appearance in that same span. Perhaps the one thing that does not show up in the box score was the amount of heart the Huskies brought to Kurt Stanic Field in Euclid.

The G-Men came into the game well rested after being off for three days, while the Huskies had to wait until Monday to finish their sectional final game and then played on a quick turnaround Wednesday in the district semi-final.

Senior Zak Butcher pitched a gem, and with some help from his defense the Huskies lost 4-1 in nine innings. The fact that the leadoff batter for the G-Men hit a ball that should have been a sure double, but junior Zach Retych tracked it down just before the warning track, was definitely a sign of things to come. Butcher walked the next batter, but a fly-out to senior James Byler battling the setting sun and a ground-out got Butcher out of the inning.

The Huskies were facing Garfield’s ace, Nick Kaiser, who has a reputation for strikeouts, and the Huskies found that out first-hand. After a leadoff walk, Kaiser struck out the next six batters he faced.

In the top of the second Butcher got the first batter to pop out to senior first baseman Tyler Evans and walked the next batter. A single scored the first run of the game, as Garfield was only able to manage one run in eight innings.

Cardinal threatened in the third with a James Yoder leadoff walk, followed by a perfectly executed sacrifice bunt by Retych that moved Yoder to second; a fielders choice moved him to third. The following batter walked, and with two on and two outs, Kaiser struck out the last batter of the inning.

The top of the fourth inning Butcher struck out the first batter and junior KC Cress made a SportsCenter-worthy play at third for the second out. Garfield got runners on second and third with two outs and hit a lazy fly to right field, but Yoder made a top play nominee himself with a sliding catch to end the rally.

The top of the fifth the G-Men threatened again with one on and one out, but junior catcher Joe Tucker threw out an attempt at a stolen base for the second out. The next batter walked for the G-Men, followed by a single to right that would have surely scored a run. However, the base runner rounded first to go to second and Yoder fired a seed to the second baseman that tagged out the batter before the runner crossed the plate, keeping the deficit at one.

The stellar defense sparked the offense. Retych reached on a one-out walk and got to second on a passed ball. Then Cress hit a two-out single, scoring Retych from second.

The score remained tied at one until Cress came in to relieve Butcher in the top of the ninth. Cress struck out the first batter, but three straight singles loaded the bases. The next batter reached on an error, scoring a run, and the next batter sacrificed another run while a throwing error scored the third run of the inning.

At the middle of the inning Cardinal was facing a 4-1 deficit.

The Huskies were able to get the tying run to the plate with two outs in the bottom of the ninth, but Kaiser made the batter his 16th strikeout victim to end the game.

Butcher, who admitted not feeling comfortable until the third inning, was able to get outs when he needed them. His line was eight innings pitched, eight walks, one earned run, three hits and four strike outs in the no decision.

Kaiser earned the win for Garfield, pitching all nine innings, seven walks, four hits and an earned run.

Head coach Brian George was pleased with his seniors’ performance despite the outcome:”That was the toughest I’ve seen Butcher all season, and it was great to see our kids play this way. This was one of our goals at the beginning of the season, to play on this field.”

Butcher praised his defense even though he knew he was not pitching up to his expectations.

Added his coach, “When there are two outs and a ball is hit to centerfield, I just start walking to the dugout because I know Zach is going to bring it with him.”

With the departure of six seniors, coach George and the Huskies have their work cut out for them next season. But it seems the juniors who were there will be up to the task. Cress went 2-for-4 with the lone RBI to pace the offense.

For more photos visit http://smu.gs/S6NfDK.

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