Cuyahoga Falls Walsh Jesuit Wins Third D-II Baseball Title In Six Years


81st State Baseball Tournament
Cuyahoga Falls Walsh Jesuit captured its fourth Division II state
baseball championship – and its third in the last six years – with a
6-0 win over Canal Winchester on Saturday at Cooper Stadium in Columbus.

The Warriors have built somewhat of a dynasty in recent years, winning state titles in 1999, 2004, 2006 and now this year.

COLUMBUS – Cuyahoga Falls Walsh Jesuit captured its fourth Division II state baseball championship – and its third in the last six years – with a 6-0 win over Canal Winchester on Saturday at Cooper Stadium in Columbus.

The Warriors have built somewhat of a dynasty in recent years, winning state titles in 1999, 2004, 2006 and now this year.

Walsh (30-3) was led by the steady pitching of senior David Starn. The 6-3 lefty was solid all day against Canal and finished with an impressive line (7 IP, 6 H, 9 K 2 BB, 1 HBP). Starn moved to 10-1 on the season with the victory.

“Oh, I felt great out there,” Starn said. “And then my teammates got me pumped up making plays behind me. That’s all I can ask for. This is a great feeling.

“When we won in ’06, I didn’t play much, I was just on the team. We had a good group of seniors that year and we just wanted to follow them this year. That has been our goal ever since was to win a state championship.”

Walsh was ranked No. 3 in the state by the Associated Press at the conclusion of the regular season. The Warriors were dominant throughout the postseason and head coach Chris Kaczmar couldn’t have been more proud of his team.

“Boy, this one is truly filled with joy,” Kaczmar said. “I don’t know what kind of expectations we had going into this season. Certainly we didn’t expect to come out on top like this and have the season that we did. But we preached family from the very first day we handed out the uniforms and they stayed together. We had tremendous leadership throughout this year and it gave us a family environment and the results speak for themselves.”

Kaczmar felt it was a total team effort on Saturday. The offense was clicking, the defense was solid and Starn was on top of his game on the mound.

“The offense executed very well today,” Kaczmar said. “Once we got a lead on them we were able to be a little more aggressive on the basepaths. And David threw strikes unbelievably well and had all four of his pitches working. The ball was moving a ton and I couldn’t be more thrilled for David Starn.”

For Canal (22-13), it marked the Indians’ first-ever appearance in the state championship game. In fact, their only other trip to the state semifinals was all the way back in 1949. Canal ended the regular season with a 14-12 record and was unranked in the state poll. However, led by first-year head coach Jason Vest, the Indians caught fire in the playoffs.

“It’s exciting that we had an opportunity to get this far,” Vest said. “It doesn’t have a lot to do with me; it has a whole lot to do with the boys and how hard they worked throughout the season. We got better as the season progressed and I even think we got better during today’s game after a slow start. I think if we played Walsh Jesuit again, you wouldn’t see a 6-0 score. We’re excited for the future of the baseball program here at Canal Winchester.

Walsh was able to get on the board right away in the bottom of the first inning. With one out, junior second baseman Joe Pawlowski drew a walk. He moved to second on a wild pitch and came around to score on senior shortstop Ross Brunello’s double to right. Brunello was then brought home on a single up the middle from sophomore first baseman Ryan Berry. At the end of the first frame, the Warriors were staked to a 2-0 lead.

In the bottom of the second, Walsh struck again. Junior right fielder Matt Keller led off with a single, which chased Canal starting pitcher Bryan Bogart from the game (1 IP, 3 H, 3 R, 3 ER, 0 K 1 BB). The Indians replaced him with junior Wes White who was the starting pitcher in Thursday’s semifinal win over Chardon Notre Dame-Cathedral Latin.

White was greeted with a single from junior catcher James Toland which put runners on first and second. Then, senior centerfielder Alex Ferrara ripped the ball into right which scored Keller to make the score 3-0 Walsh. However, Ferrara injured himself trying to get out of the batter’s box (it looked like a right ankle sprain) and was thrown out at first.

Following a walk from junior LF Matthew Pollock, Pawlowski drove in Toland with a ground out to make the count 4-0 in favor of the Warriors.

Starn was dominant on the mound for Walsh through the first two innings. But Canal almost got to him in the top of the third. With two outs, senior catcher Tyler Griffith worked a walk. Then, senior shortstop Joey Butler reached on an infield single and Griffith went to third. Following a walk to junior CF Mike Romanowski, Canal’s top hitter – sophomore second baseman Drew Dosch – stepped to the plate. Dosch collected several clutch hits this season – including a bases-clearing double in Canal’s regional final win over Steubenville to break a 5-5 tie. However, this time around, he hit a hard grounder to second base which ended the inning.

The top of the fourth also started promising for Canal as the first two batters of the inning reached. White singled and then junior third baseman Tyler Steube was hit by a pitch. However, White was picked off of second base and then Starn struck out the next two batters to end the inning unscathed.

Starn kept right on humming in the top of the fifth inning. Canal’s junior designated hitter Cory Spelman laced a double to right to leadoff the frame. However, a fielder’s choice and two strikeouts once again got the powerful Starn out of trouble. Heading into the bottom of the fifth, Walsh still held a 4-0 advantage.

White was doing a good job of keeping Canal Winchester in the game with solid pitching. However, Walsh got to him in the bottom of the fifth. Brunello led off with a walk and advanced to third on a pair of fielder’s choice outs. Sophomore third baseman Johnny Fasola then drove in Brunello with a single and the Warriors took a commanding 5-0 lead.

In the bottom of the sixth, Walsh added another insurance run. Following an error from Canal and a wild pitch, Pollock drove in Brandon Budnick with a line drive single to center. That was all for White who was replaced on the mound by Dosch. Dosch got the final two outs of the inning to keep the score at 6-0 in favor of Walsh.

When the final out of the game was recorded on a ground ball to first, Sharn and his teammates threw their hats and gloves in the air and mobbed each other in front of the mound.

“It’s just incredible that we were able to pull together and win the way we did,” Sharn said.

Next up for the pitcher will be a decision in terms of where to play college baseball. He is undecided, but is receiving interest from several Division I programs.

“Yeah, I definitely will play college ball, but I’m not sure where yet,” Sharn said. “Miami (Ohio) and Kent are my top two.”

Kaczmar is now 291-62 during his tenure at Walsh.

As for Canal, it returns most of its top players next season and could be one of the favorites to get back to the state tournament. The Indians certainly don’t plan on waiting another 59 years between state final four appearances.

Statistically, Walsh’s offense was led by Fasola (2-for-3, RBI) and Keller (2-for-3).

Canal was led by Steube who finished 2-for-2.

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