ASHTABULA TOWNSHIP — Never giving up.
That’s been the calling card for the Edgewood baseball team all season. In their last two postseason games, that mantra has never been more true.
Both times, Edgewood trailed late and the season was in jeopardy of ending, then a jolt in the sixth inning brought the team back to life and the postseason success has continued.
Now, the Warriors (15-8) are two games away from the Division III state tournament. They are scheduled to play Canton Central Catholic in the second regional semifinal at 5 p.m. today at Massillon Washington High School.
Kirtland takes on Waynedale in the opener. The semifinal winners return to Massillon for a 5 p.m. Friday regional final with a state trip on the line.
“We just keep battling,” Warriors senior second baseman Jacob Zappitelli said. “We play 21 outs. That’s what’s got us those wins.”
Edgewood coach Sean Freeman said his team has battled all season.
“We’ve had four, five come-from-behind wins and even a few losses, we’ve come back,” he said. “That’s definitely the identity of this team. I’m proud of them.”
As a third seed in the Niles District tournament, Edgewood opened the tournament with a 3-0 win over Berkshire.
That set up a showdown against Grand Valley, a 2018 regional finalist.
Trailing 3-1, the Warriors tallied five runs in the sixth inning to post a 6-3 district semifinal win and face All-American Conference foe Champion in the final.
Just two days later, Edgewood found itself in a similar situation.
Champion led 5-4 after five innings. In the top of the sixth inning, the Warriors tied the game at 5-5.
Then, Chris Morici stepped and belted a grand slam to help Edgewood to a 10-5 district championship and first regional appearance since 2015.
“I think we realized we needed to get some hits or our season could be over,” said Edgewood senior pitcher Frank Sloan, who has committed to play for Lake Erie College next season.
Zappitelli said the team wasn’t down in either game.
“We all believe and have faith in each other,” he said. “When Chris hit the grand slam, I knew I’d give him a big hug. That was the changing point in the game.”
Zappitelli is embarking on his second regional appearance of the school year.
The state-ranked basketball team won the Division III Warren District title for a first time in 28 years and played at the Canton Fieldhouse in early March, falling to Mogadore 69-65 in the regional semifinals.
“This is definitely right up there,” he said. “There’s different teammates, but both have been amazing. Both have been good years.”
Even Sloan, who didn’t play basketball, said that postseason run pumped him up.
“It was great seeing how much fun it was for them,” he said. “The couple of games there’s been tons of people to watch us.”
While expectations for the boys basketball team were lofty entering the season, the baseball team was under the radar.
“I feel like we’re the underdogs,” said Zappitelli, who enters the regional batting .435 with 25 stolen bases and 21 runs from the leadoff position. “We’ve had to fight. It’s a great feeling.”
Aside from Zappitelli, Morici is hitting .344 with 18 runs and 18 RBIs and Alec Katon checks in at .315 with 14 runs and 13 RBIs.
Sloan and Katon have formed a solid 1-2 punch at the top of the pitching rotation.
Sloan is 7-1 with a 1.33 ERA. He has 67 strikeouts to just eight walks. Katon has a 5-1 mark and a 1.6 ERA with 50 strikeouts and 17 walks.
The Warriors will face a formidable foe in CCC (22-6).
In the postseason, CCC, as a second seed, defeated Hanover United 8-1 and Rootstown 4-0 to reach the district final. At that point, the Crusaders upset top-seeded Canfield South Range 8-6 to win the Struthers District.
“You get to this point and everyone is good,” Freeman said. “We’ve watched some film and seen some good pitching, but we’ve seen good pitching all season. We have to play good defense, have a great pitching performance and get timely hitting.”
Pitcher Andrew Halas leads CCC with six wins and under a 1.00 ERA. In hitting, five players have 13 or more RBIs, led Austin Beck and Cameron Johnson with 21 each.
The Crusaders are 13-time district and six-time regional champions with three state titles, including 2015.