CLEVELAND — Playing at a major league stadium as a high school athlete is a big deal all on its own. Elyria Catholic made sure the experience would be even more memorable.
Playing with pink wristbands to support EC principal Amy Butler, who was recently diagnosed with breast cancer, the Panthers scored three times in the top of the first inning and kept pouring it on Friday afternoon.
With three more in the top of the fifth, EC came away with a 10-0 mercy-rule victory over Berea at Progressive Field — the second of three games in the annual Cleveland Indians Charities Hardball Classic.
EC improved to 6-6, while Berea fell to 1-11.
“Considering playing here, I thought the kids would have a tough time with the jitters and be more nervous,” EC coach Bruce Lisicky said. “But we came out and scored three runs right off the bat and took a 7-0 lead (after three innings), and I think if there were any jitters beforehand, I think that performance settled them down.
“I think the toughest thing was getting 21 kids in the game today. I had it all planned out to get everyone in the game, and things started moving so fast with the runs, I had to improvise. Fortunately, by the fourth inning, I think we had all 21 in and out of the game. Winning was big, but the most important thing was letting these kids experience the thrill of playing where the Indians play.”
The players came up with the idea of wearing pink to dedicate the game to Butler.
“We were playing for our principal today,” Panthers sophomore pitcher Dominic Piazza (2-1) said. “We wanted to dedicate the game to her, and I think we played great as a team. It was just fun being out there.”
Piazza started the game for EC and was one of three pitchers, along with seniors Joey Begany and Darion Katynski, to combine for a three-hit shutout, with six strikeouts and no walks. Piazza gave up two hits in two innings and struck out three.
“When I first went out there, I was nervous,” he said. “But once I got going, it was just fun. I felt great. We just had fun playing as a team. Our defense played great and our offense played great.”
Begany, who got the chance to warm up in the bullpen before entering, tossed two innings of hitless ball, striking out two. He also went 4-for-4 with a run scored and had two RBIs and was named the “Star of the Game.”
“It feels good, especially to do it in front of all these people at a big stadium like this,” Begany said. “I’m an Indians fan, and to be part of this was an amazing experience. To see their dugouts, be in their bullpen, see the cages underneath the field, it’s an amazing experience. I’d love to play here every day.”
The Panthers took advantage of Berea’s miscues early on. Two wild pitches and two passed balls led to the first run scoring after a pair of leadoff walks, and an error on a grounder from Dan Whitacre made it a 2-0 lead. Whitacre came around to score on an RBI groundout by Ian Kovacs to make it 3-0.
EC made sure things would end after five with three more runs in the top of the fifth. Another RBI single by Begany was sandwiched around an RBI single by Katynski and a bases-loaded walk to reserve Noah Bland.
“Joey Begany’s been hitting all year and has been a big RBI guy as well,” Lisicky said. “He’s been doing a good job driving in the guys in front of him and he definitely did so today. He also did a nice job throwing two shutout innings along with it.
“Everybody contributed. Most guys had a base hit. Dominic’s starting pitching — in fact all of our pitching — was great. We had trouble issuing walks earlier this year, so I was very pleased to see a zero under bases on balls. These guys are coming in, throwing strikes and attacking the guys, and good things happen.”
Contact Dan Gilles at 329-7135 or firstname.lastname@example.org.