Resiliency. Tenacity. Grit. These are of few of the traits that come to mind when describing the Berkshire Badgers varsity baseball team.
Resiliency. Tenacity. Grit.
These are of few of the traits that come to mind when describing the Berkshire Badgers varsity baseball team. On their amazing OHSAA playoff run to the regional semifinals, their mental toughness has been on display.
Paul Brown, one of the first individuals to implement psychological testing in athletics while a teacher and coach at Massillon Washington High School, certainly would have been proud of the character and mental toughness Berkshire has shown throughout its playoff run.
And in the shadows of Paul Brown Tiger Stadium on June 4, the Badgers played with the type of toughness that the stadium’s namesake, that Hall of Fame coach, believed was necessary for success in athletics.
In a pressure-packed ball game at the Massillon Washington High School baseball stadium, Berkshire was defeated by Canton Central Catholic, 4-3.
Berkshire players and coaches noted the great team cohesion, undoubtedly influenced by the senior led team, and the tremendous effort put forth by the players throughout the season.
“This team is great,” said senior Berkshire baseball player Jake Brown. “We got 10 seniors out here. … We went out, we competed every single game. We made it to the regional semifinals. Both district games went 1-0. Just an unbelievable season.”
Added Berkshire senior JT Bergmeier, “We came out here, we competed every inning. It just didn’t go our way.”
Berkshire Head Coach Nick Burzanko, although not obtaining the results he’d hoped for, was proud of the effort his players put forth.
“To come out here and battle and give yourself a chance at a regional semifinal, I couldn’t be more proud of these guys and happy with the way they played today,” he said.
As is frequently the case in playoff baseball, the pitching was fantastic and hits were difficult to come by, requiring hitters to stay calm, cool and collected and battle throughout the game. This regional semifinal game certainly lived up to expectations as fans saw a close game in which the pitching was dominant.
Both starting pitchers threw scoreless first and second innings. However, Canton Central Catholic got on the scoreboard first in the top of the third inning, scoring an unearned run.
The Badgers, though, would battle back quickly.
After Berkshire loaded the bases in the third inning, Blake Jenkins came to the plate. On the first pitch he saw, Jenkins lined a double into the left centerfield gap. Jake Brown and Jack Jacobs came around from second and third to score.
In what was one of three amazingly close plays at the plate, Brian Brent scored Berkshire’s third run from first base on Jenkins double, narrowly avoiding the tag from the Canton Central Catholic catcher.
Over the next three innings, Canton Central Catholic was able to manufacture two runs, scoring both runs on RBI groundouts.
At the end of the sixth inning, the game was tied 3-3, and the Badgers were in a familiar pressure-packed situation; they had been either up by one run or tied in the past two district playoff games.
Both teams were undeterred and battled to the final out. Finally, an the top of the seventh, Canton Central Catholic scored the game-winning run on extremely close play at the plate.
In the bottom of the seventh, Berkshire had runners on first and second, but they were stranded.
Both starting pitchers pitched well, giving up no earned runs. J.T. Bergmeier threw five innings, allowing only one hit, giving up no earned runs, and striking out four. Bergmeier did not walk anybody.
The Central Catholic pitcher, Eric Baum, also pitched an excellent game. He threw seven innings of five-hit baseball while striking out nine and walking two.
Berkshire was led offensively by Jenkins, who was 2-3 with three runs batted in.
Canton Central Catholic was led by Christian Harris, who was 2-3 on the day.
Hundreds of Berkshire fans made the drive of one hour 20 minutes down I-77 to watch this extremely well played and exciting baseball game.
“Once again, we have a really good showing down here for our guys today,” said Berkshire Athletic Director Brian Hiscox. “I know our guys appreciate it, especially the year…where attendance was limited in basketball games, volleyball games and soccer games and football. To see the community come back out and support our kids is exciting, and we are really looking forward to next fall.”
Although his season has come to a close, Berkshire’s Brown will have one more high school game left to play. He was selected by the Chagrin Valley Conference coaches to play in the first inaugural Chagrin Valley Conference Baseball All Star Game.
Canton Central Catholic, who won the regional title game June 5 in a 6-4 victory over South Range, next travels to Canal Park in Akron on June 10 to try to win its fourth state championship in the past 13 years against Archbold.