HUDSON: Youngstown Cardinal Mooney flinched and Archbishop Hoban responded with a knockout punch.
A series of them, in fact, in the form of a seven-run sixth inning, that turned a tight game into a rout. And the Knights will go marching into next week’s state final four as the result of a 14-4 victory in the Hudson Division II baseball regional final at The Ballpark at Hudson on Friday night.
“Our main focus was just to stay on task, just keep plugging,” Hoban senior shortstop Sean Trexler said. “Stay focused the entire time and we did, as you can see. We kept hitting the ball, but we were hitting it at them. Then later towards the end of the game we started hitting gaps and everything.”
Trexler had three of his team’s 15 hits, including RBI triples in the sixth and seventh. He scored three times.
It will be Hoban’s second trip to state in three years. The Knights believe they have unfinished business after a 9-8 loss to Columbus DeSales in the 2011 finals.
Hoban (20-10) will face the Defiance/Granville winner in the state semifinals at 7 p.m. Thursday at Huntington Park in Columbus. Defiance led 3-0 in the fifth Friday before the game was suspended by rain. It is to be completed today.
“It feels amazing,” Trexler said. “It is a great feeling. There’s nothing else that feels like this. We’re going to keep this train rolling. That’s just another goal checked off our list and we’re just going to keep going to states. Winning states is just our final goal.”
Even threatening skies couldn’t spoil the Knights’ party. Only a few sprinkles fell during the game. Ironically, just minutes after the game’s final out, the clouds opened and rain pounded the field, clearing players and fans.
A base hit that traveled maybe 50 feet turned out to be the mighty blow of the day for Hoban. And it was struck by one of the heroes of the previous day’s semifinal victory over Chardon Notre Dame-Cathedral Latin.
With the score tied 4-4 and runners on first and second with one out in the sixth, freshman left fielder Tyler Canova — who made a spectacular catch to preserve the 3-2 win over NDCL — pushed a bunt to the left of the mound.
Pitcher Joe Cunningham knocked it down but while on his knees, threw late and wild toward first, allowing both runners to score as the speedy Canova raced to third.
“He hasn’t seen a lot of at-bats and we were looking to possibly pinch hit for him with a guy on second,” Hoban coach Jim Diestel said. “At the same time, he’s so fast. One of the things we thought about was him bunting and making them make a play, and that’s exactly what happened.”
Senior Aaron Cain walked and stole second, and a bad throw allowed Canova to come home for a 7-4 lead.
Hoban then poured it on, collecting six hits in the inning. A single by senior Cody Hargett, triple by Trexler and junior Austin Farber’s suicide squeeze brought in three more, and senior Adam Gray’s single and an error made it 11-4.
Four of the six errors by Cardinal Mooney (21-8) occurred that inning.
The Knights added three more runs in the seventh, which included singles by Cain and Hargett.
After allowing four runs in the first two innings, senior right-handed pitcher Drew Lakos (6-1) finished with five scoreless innings.
“After that second inning, when we were able to bounce back I was able to hit strikes, we were making plays and once we settled down we were golden,” Lakos said. “We knew we could take it.”
Senior catcher Anthony Osmun, who recently returned after missing a month with a dislocated thumb, helped Lakos stay on course.
“Drew and I play on the same summer team so we know each other really well,” Osmun said. “All I wanted to do was tell him to keep pounding the zone and eventually our defense is going to make a play. I was just trying to calm him down a little bit.”
While he was out, making it back for the playoffs was foremost in his mind.
“All I wanted to do was come out and be with my best friends on this team and compete for a state championship,” Osmun said. “It’s indescribable. I’m at a loss for words right now.”
Read the high school blog at https://ohio.com/preps.