CANFIELD, Ohio (WKBN) – The way Canfield senior AJ Havrilla describes this team is exactly how the Cardinals want to feel following an All-American Conference title.
“We’re kind of like a snowball at the top of a mountain,” Havrilla said. “We’re kind of just falling down the mountain, getting bigger and bigger as the season goes on.”
The Cardinals wrapped up a perfect 8-0 conference record with two wins against Austintown Fitch in two days.
“I’ve been around the program, this is my fourth year being up here now and I’m cherishing these moments a lot right now,” Havrilla said. “So this is my last time putting on this jersey this last year, so I’m really just cherishing it and having the best time with it.”
Thanks to dominant pitching in recent years, tournament success has started to become the norm for Canfield head coach Gary Knittle and staff. Despite losing some of those arms to graduation, there is still plenty to be impressed with.
“We set the bar pretty high, you know, and this incoming group, you know, everyone’s like, oh, they lost all their pitching,” Knittle said. “Obviously, the cupboard wasn’t bare.”
Not at all, considering they’ve tossed a couple of no-hitters this season, the most recent by senior Jameson Beck.
“You’ve got the guys all jumping on you after the game, it feels real good and, you know, we’ve had a lot of guys step up onto the varsity team this year who haven’t even played a lot of varsity at all,” Beck said. “They’ve just stepped up and played all their positions very well.”
This year’s team even has some extra motivation, thanks to friends and classmates who hoisted a football state championship in the fall, showing them what is at the end of the road in these “win or go home” games.
“One of our assistant coaches is an assistant coach on the football team and obviously them getting their state rings last week was nice,” Knittle said. “All the kids got to see them and you know, it gives us a little more incentive that our football team was able to do it and now it’s our turn to go out.”
Canfield (15-4) has one game left on the regular season schedule, a non-conference matchup against Lakeview (17-2) before the Division II Northeast District Sectional Finals.
The Cardinals will play the winner of Game 1 between Youngstown East and Ravenna on Wednesday, May 17 in the Division II Northeast District Sectional Finals.