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Young Walsh baseball wins Struthers district

By MICHAEL LEONARD Sports Editor Published: May 28, 2017 12:00 AM
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In terms of on-field expectations, the 2017 Walsh Jesuit baseball team came in further under than radar than any Warriors' team in recent memory.

With a young core, however, Walsh was able to accomplish what last year's team couldn't: Win the Division I district title at Struthers.

Walsh tore through its two opponents in the Struthers district, dismissing Kent Roosevelt 15-5 in five innings May 18 and beating Boardman 6-1 May 19 in the final at Bob Cene Park in Struthers.

Not bad for a team coach Chris Kaczmar said was in full rebuilding mode at the outset of the season.

Prior to regionals, Walsh scored a 12-3 win over Tallmadge in a warm-up game May 23.

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Walsh was scheduled to face Massillon Jackson May 25 in a Division I regional semifinal game at Thurman Munson Stadium in Canton. However, the game was postponed 24 hours due to rain.

"This is the third time we've been rained out against Jackson, so we're used to it," said Kaczmar. "To be candid, we're probably going to go in as the underdog, but we're going to give it all we have."

Thus, Walsh's record stood at 19-8 as of press time. Results from regionals were not available at press time.

"We're really excited about the progress this team has made," Kaczmar said. "We've had a wide spread of contributions from a lot of underclassmen."

Roosevelt was given the top seed in the Struthers district, but Walsh left no doubt as to who the better team was, jumping on the Rough Riders for seven runs in the top of the first inning.

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"That was a crazy game," Kaczmar said. "It just happened to be a game where we were hitting well."

Walsh didn't let up, as the Warriors banged out 18 hits and took advantage of five Roosevelt errors.

Walsh led by as much as 15-1 in the middle of the fifth inning, before the Rough Riders put up four runs in the bottom of the fifth inning in an attempt to at least prolong the game. However, the contest was still called after five innings due to the 10-run mercy rule.

All that run support led to an easy win for senior pitcher Jace Burke, who improved to 6-0 on the year with a 0.58 earned-run average.

"Jace did what he's done for us since he got healthy at the beginning of the year," Kaczmar said. "He's really turned into a high school ace. I'm so proud of him, after dealing with injuries the last two seasons."

Burke was one of many Warriors who a good day with the bat. He finished with two singles and three runs scored, while senior shortstop Brendan Regan added two singles, a double, a triple, two runs and two RBIs. Drew Wilkerson added two singles, a double, two RBIs and two runs scored.

Against Boardman, Walsh turned to sophomore Yassir Kahook to start on the mound. Kahook (3-3) produced a gem, limiting the Spartans to one run in six innings of work. He struck out five batters.

It was an exceptional game for a player of his age," Kaczmar said of Kahook. "He's got tremendous presence. He's not just a thrower. He pitches to spots and to contact. That was a game where he allowed his defense to work for him."

Regan, who is Walsh's closer, pitched a scoreless seventh inning to preserve the win.

After taking a 1-0 lead in the bottom of the fourth inning, Walsh did most of its damage in a five-run fifth inning. Sophomore Nate Stahl led the Warriors with an RBI double, while junior Easton Kinall added two singles.

"We had some very timely hitting," Kaczmar said, noting Nolan Quinn and Burke each had key RBIs. "Our offensive contributions were wide spread."

Walsh banged out seven hits in the win.

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