Published in The News-Herald
April 21, 2018
Chardon graduated nine seniors from last year’s team, which won a share of the Western Reserve Conference championship.
From the outside looking in, a rebuild seemed likely for the Hilltoppers as they tried to maintain their standing in the rigorous WRC. Chardon needed to replace significant contributors like Perry Bewley, now pitching at Ashland, Mason Metz, Alex Radzin, T.J. Kinkopf and Nick Sensibello.
Still, coach Brian Long was confident that while the Hilltoppers lost talent, they also returned plenty in Myles Metz, Luke Callahan, Dylan Hemly and Dakota Baldwin — underclassmen who played a role in previous success.
“They saw what it takes to win a conference title and to build a team,” Long said. “They’re taking these underclassmen in, these underclassmen are learning from them. It’s just kind of a rotating factory going on.”
Midway through the 2018 season, the early returns from Chardon’s new leadership core are probably better than even Long expected. The Hilltoppers moved to 12-1 with a 3-1 win at Kenston April 21, their eight consecutive victory.
Myles Metz allowed a run, three hits and struck out nine against zero walks to move to 4-0 on the season. A shortstop when he isn’t pitching, Metz learned from his time backing up Bewley and, on the mound, picked up a few pointers from his brother on how to throw a curveball.
When the 2018 season began, despite external opinions, Metz and his fellow upperclassmen were confident in their ability to lead.
“I think (people) didn’t expect us to be this good this year because we lost eight or nine seniors,” Metz said. “They were all seniors, they were all fantastic.”
Metz was sharp at Kenston, and didn’t allow a baserunner to move into scoring position until the fourth. The Bombers scored their first run in the sixth on Matthew Pecoraro’s sacrifice fly. By then, Chardon was in control.
Grant Goodge led off the fourth with a double and scored on Evan Fairbanks’ single for a 1-0 Chardon lead. The Hilltoppers added two runs in the fifth. Callahan’s single sent Dante Perrico home from second and an error allowed Metz to score from first on the play.
Metz struck out two in the seventh to improve to 4-0. Chardon moved to 4-0 in WRC play.
“Myles kept the guys off-balance,” Long said. “Just for the guys to come out here and get those timely hits, get those three runs across was huge.”
Kenston dropped to 7-5 overall with a 4-2 WRC mark. Ryan Kammer allowed three runs — two earned — and six hits in five innings. He struck out two and walked none.
After 12 games, coach Bob Ford is satisfied with the Bombers’ pitching and defense. But their loss April 21 was symptomatic of what’s plagued Kenston’s offense lately.
Ford’s lineup features plenty of excellent hitters, namely Matthew Pecoraro, Patrick Persichetti and Matthew Cassaro. But Ford has encouraged his hitters to develop a better approach in the batter’s box.
Against Chardon, that meant a readiness to hit against an aggressive pitcher seeking first-pitch strikes with his fastball.
“We’ve got some guys on the team we need to swing,” Ford said. “I said, hey, listen, Chardon swung at a lot of first pitches. They put the ball in play. We caught a lot of them but they hit them hard.”