Lion Seniors Lead Caging of Bulldogs
May 19, 2023 by Rich Kelly

As cloudy skies rolled into Munson Township Friday afternoon, the NDCL Lions celebrated the efforts of their six seniors on the baseball diamond during Senior Day.

Game photos click here.

As cloudy skies rolled into Munson Township Friday afternoon, the NDCL Lions celebrated the efforts of their six seniors on the baseball diamond during Senior Day.

Nothing was about to dampen the spirits of those who came to celebrate the efforts of Gianni Spetic, Phil Davidson, Nick Miller, Jackson O’Neil, Antonio Mandato and Cole Stefancin as their high school careers reach the end. Their contributions have been different in their own special ways, but they have all been clear and appreciated.

On May 12, the Olmsted Falls Bulldogs got in the way, but a solid but unspectacular effort for all the Lions led to a 3-0 victory for NDCL to complete the festivities.

In his first season at the helm of the program, NDCL Head Coach Marc Thibeault has used the talents he has built over the years to guide his team, and the seniors have played a huge role.

“We’ve had our ups and downs this season,” he said. “At the same time, on a team young in experience at the varsity level, our seniors have done a great job of reinforcing the things we have shared with all the players. At times, our execution has been inconsistent, but this has been a great group of young men to work with and teach. They put full energy into everything, and they have made it easy for me to coach them.”

O’Neil assessed the event perfectly after the game was over.

“I just can’t really believe it’s almost all over for me here,” he said. “I’ve grown so much as a person and as a player with this group of guys, and I really appreciate everything I’ve learned about life. My only goal now, if we can pull it off, would be to win a state title.”

The efforts of these seniors will also leave underclassmen in a good position for their own futures.

Junior left-handed pitcher Braeden Kinnaird, who was the winning pitcher in this game with five shutout innings on the mound, said he’s learned a lot about pitching this season.

“My fastball, slow curve and changeup are my best pitches, and today they all were working well for me,” he said. “Once the team scored early, I was comfortable, too, and the seniors on the team are always talking on the bench and in the field about remaining focused in what we’re doing. The leadership has been amazing.”

Kinnaird allowed only three hits while walking only one and fanning four to earn the win.

In the bottom of the first inning, with one out, Miller took a pitch in the foot to reach first base. Davidson drilled a sharp ground ball down the right field line, and just before it reached the glove of the first baseman, the ball took a funny hop and went into right field for a single. Nick Dietrick then sent a chopper beyond the mound toward shortstop, but the third baseman had issues securing the ball, and Miller scored.

As both teams settled down thereafter, the Lions again built two runs to secure the win.

Griffen Moskal walked leading off, stole second, and then, with one out, moved to third as Cole Stefancin struck out, requiring a throw to first to complete the out. Moskal took off as the ball got away from the catcher, and the throw to first nailed Stefancin, but Moskal dashed to third and came home on another wild pitch.

Mandato moved up on a balk, then to third as Jackson O’Neil reached on an infield chopper toward shortstop for a single, and leadoff hitter Frankie Clark laced a shot to left for a single to plate Mandato for the final run of the game.

Kinnaird held the Bulldogs to three hits in his five innings, Dietrick allowed a harmless single in one inning of work, and a pair of pinch hitters hit safely against Moskal in the seventh before he fired a called third strike past the final hitter.

The Lions improved to 8-11 on the season before facing local rival Benedictine in the regular season finale.

Coach Thibeault likes what his team has done this season, and is confident for its future as well.

“These kids are maturing before my eyes,” he said. “Many have made plays above their grade levels, so I know what they are capable of doing. Now we need to keep building on those capabilities to keep getting better.”

O’Neil, the hitting in the nine hole of the lineup, led the way with a pair of hits in two plate efforts. As a team, NDCL only had five hits, as Jake Platner and Nick Walsh pitched well for the Bulldogs. But everybody in the lineup made key plays, leading the way to Senior Day victory.