Prep Baseball Report

2019 OHSAA Tournament: Division I State Semifinal - No. 12 Saint Ignatius vs No. 20 Hilliard Darby

Bruce Hefflinger
PBR Ohio Senior Writer

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2019 OHSAA TOURNAMENT: DIVISION I STATE SEMIFINAL - NO. 12 Saint Ignatius VS NO. 20 Hilliard Darby

AKRON -  Who said cats only have nine lives?

The Wildcats of Saint Ignatius avoided threat after threat by Hilliard Darby before outlasting the Panthers 4-3 in 13 innings to win the longest game in Ohio High School State Baseball Tournament history on Friday in the Division I semifinals at Canal Park.

AJ Gaich came home on a Michael Holdsworth sacrifice fly in the top of the 13th and Saint Ignatius held on to advance to Sunday’s 10 a.m. championship game against Mentor. 

Nick Fletcher threw five innings of three-hit shutout relief to pick up the win for the 12th-rated Wildcats, which are making their 14th state tournament appearance with the lone championship coming in 2002.

Darby, which outhit Ignatius 9-7, left 16 runners on base in the heartbreaking loss, including nine in scoring position. In addition, the Panthers had two runners thrown out at third base, one in the last of the 11th before Fletcher got out of a bases-loaded jam on a fly out to right field.

Gaich, who led off the 13th with a single, advanced to third on a Michael McNamara single to left field setting up the Holdsworth sacrifice fly.

Ignatius trailed 2-0 entering the fourth when Gaich led off with a triple and came home along with McNamara on an Austin Jones base hit. Holdsworth touched the plate with the third run of the inning on a Matt Geraci single.

But Darby tied the game in the seventh on a bases-loaded double-play grounder that brought in Andrew Patrick with his third run of the game. The leadoff hitter for the 20th-rated Panthers had three singles and stole two bases, while Mason Bowers and Kyle Miller had two singles and one RBI apiece.


Hats off: Hard-luck losing pitcher Seth Schmidt was outstanding in defeat, throwing eight innings of shutout relief before the Wildcats scratched across a run off the senior right-hander in the 13th. Schmidt gave up four hits and two walks in his nine innings of work, striking out four while throwing 113 pitches, 79 for strikes.

Player of the game: Gaich came through when he was needed most for Ignatius. First the senior headed to Yale ignited the three-run rally in the fourth while hitting from the right side before the switch-hitter produced a single hitting left-handed in the 13th. In addition, the second baseman was stellar defensively coming up with one of three big plays defensively by Ignatius. Gaich fielded a hard shot grounder with the bases full in the bottom of the seventh and flipped the ball from his glove to McNamara who turned the double play.

Defense gems: Along with the 4-6-3 twin killing in the seventh, Ignatius had two big plays in extra innings. In the 11th, Jones, the Wildcats’ catcher, fired a perfect strike to Holdsworth at third base after a wild throw home to nail a Darby runner trying to get back to the bag. An inning later with one on and two out, Flynn Lenehan - who started the game at DH - made a sliding shoestring catch in right field to prevent the potential game-winning run from scoring.

What’s next?: With the top two batters in the Darby lineup just sophomores in center fielder Patrick, a Wright State commit, and Paxton Schwandt, an impressive shortstop, the Panthers have a pair of players to build around. Starting pitcher Connor Maruniak gives Darby a potential ace for a team that made its first state appearance in school history.


Saint Ignatius          000 300 000 000 1 - 4 7  3
Hilliard Darby          101 000 100 000 0 - 3 9  0

Records: Saint Ignatius 23-8, Hilliard Darby 24-8

Winning Pitcher: Nick Fletcher (5 innings, 0 runs, 3 hits, 3 strikeouts, 4 walks). Others: Andrew Mulhern, Luke Lashutka, Matt Ferritto.

Losing Pitcher: Seth Schmidt (9 innings, 1 run, 4 hits, 4 strikeouts, 2 walks). Other: Connor Maruniak.

Leading Hitters: (Saint Ignatius) - AJ Gaich single, triple, 2 runs; Michael McNamara 2 singles; Austin Jones single, 2 RBIs; Matt Geraci single, double. (Hilliard Darby) - Andrew Patrick 3 singles, 3 runs; Mason Bowers 2 singles; Kyle Miller 2 singles; Drew Snyder single; Nick Skelskey single.