St. Francis players Joe White (1), Michael Wagner (10), and their teammates leave the field after dropping a regional final game to St. Ignatius.
SPECIAL TO BLADE/PHIL LONG
PARMA — Some 44-plus hours after it began on another diamond 20 miles away in Cleveland, the Division I regional baseball final between St. Francis de Sales and Cleveland St. Ignatius was completed Sunday at Cuyahoga Community College in Parma.
The fourth-ranked Knights will try to forget it as quickly as possible, however, after St. Ignatius pounded out 16 hits in a 14-0 victory at Ron Mottl Field in a game that ended by mercy rule after five innings.
PHOTO GALLERY: St. Francis baseball ousted
“That’s what we wanted to do to them,” Knights coach Tim Gerken said of the humbling defeat. “We couldn’t get them off the green light, without a doubt. ... They hit rockets all over the field.
“It was a great run, and you just wish you were on the other side today. It’s just one of those things. You deal with it and tip your hat to the opponent when they get you like that. That’s all you can do.”
St. Francis (29-3), which had enjoyed its best season since the 1985 Knights finished 30-2, went to Parma trailing 1-0 in the bottom of the first inning after the game was postponed by heavy rains at Case Western Reserve University on Friday.
An hour and 24 minutes into Sunday’s Part II, they were victims of an offensive storm supplied by the bats of the Wildcats (26-6), who added a run in the top of the second before breaking things open with a 10-run third-inning onslaught.
By game’s end, St. Ignatius had mixed five triples and two doubles into its 16-hit total off four St. Francis pitchers.
When Knights starter Josh Williams exited after two innings, St. Francis trailed 2-0. Further damage in each of his two innings were cut off by a pair of inning-ending double plays.
There would be no such fortuitous escapes for the Knights and left-handed reliever Kenzie Mayo in the top of the third. Mayo retired the first batter that inning but no others.
A walk to Nick Fabian was followed by Nick Longo’s RBI triple to center.
Cole Nieto ripped a liner off of Mayo’s glove hand for a single that sent Longo home.
Mayo, in obvious pain, was able to remain in the game but not for long. Quillen Austria doubled to left, Alex Panstares slammed a two-run triple to right-center, and Joe Khoury singled him home for a 7-0 Wildcats lead.
Dan Rowbottom followed with an RBI triple to chase Mayo.
Miccoy Drzewiecki, the Knights’ third pitcher, was rudely greeted by Tyler Finkler’s successful squeeze bunt that turned into a single.
Drzewiecki hit Shane Skuhrovec with a pitch, and Fabian delivered a two-run triple.
Longo capped the 10-run deluge with a sacrifice fly to right, and St. Ignatius held a commanding 12-0 lead before St. Francis had even sent eight batters to the plate in the game.
The rest was left up to Wildcats left-hander Nick Margevicius, who needed just 64 pitches to blank the Knights on three hits.
“I don’t know if we buried them there, but we scored a lot of runs,” St. Ignatius coach Brad Ganor said.
“We knew, at 29-2, that they weren’t going to go easy.
“It was great that our pitcher kept throwing strikes and didn’t give them a lot of chances with runners on base."
The win sends St. Ignatius to Friday’s D-I state semifinals against Gahanna Lincoln (22-9) at Huntington Park in Columbus.
Two of St. Francis’ hits off Margevicius were from senior first baseman Matt Zmuda, who singled in the first and fourth innings. Knight right field Cody Lewis also singled leading off the fourth. By then, St. Francis trailed 14-0.
“That’s not they way we wanted to go out,” Zmuda said. “We were hoping to get a W today. It was tough when they put the 10-spot on us. We had to keep the morale of the team up, and we just didn’t have enough today.
“It was an unfortunate end to a great season. I think it was just the baseball gods today. We were all excited and ready to play, but the ball just didn’t go our way.”
The Knights’ only previous losses this season were against an Alabama opponent during their spring-break trip to Florida in early April and — after 26 consecutive wins — against rival Central Catholic in Tuesday’s Three Rivers Athletic Conference championship game at Mercy Field.
St. Francis had defeated fifth-ranked, Northern Lakes League champion Perrysburg (27-4) by a 10-5 count in Thursday’s D-I regional semifinal to earn their meeting with St. Ignatius.
The game began at 5 p.m. on Friday at Case Western, but lightning delayed the game after the top of the first inning, and the heavy rains that drenched field forced a suspension of the game.
Contact Steve Junga at: firstname.lastname@example.org, 419-724-6461 or on Twitter@JungaBlade.