The venue was historic, but the game was business as usual for the Elyria Catholic baseball team.
The Panthers took advantage of its opponent’s mistakes while using shutdown starting pitching in a 5-3 Great Lakes Conference win over Holy Name at League Park on Tuesday (April 18) afternoon.
League Park was home to a number of baseball milestones. The Indians played there for most of the first half of the 1900s. Babe Ruth hit his 500th career home run there on Aug. 11, 1929. Joe DiMaggio hit in the last of his 56 straight games there on July 16, 1941 — the streak was snapped the next night at Cleveland Municipal Stadium, where the Indians hosted weekend games as opposed to the smaller League Park.
Addie Joss threw a perfect game against the White Sox there in 1908 and the Indians clinched the 1920 World Series at the historic stadium on the corner of Lexington and East 66th.
Panthers’ coach Bruce Lisicky said his team was excited to play on such hallowed ground.
“We had some players that looked up the history of League Park earlier in the day and they really looked forward to playing where so many great moments in baseball history happened,” Lisicky said. “Babe Ruth’s 500th home run, the only unassisted triple play in World Series history and Cy Young throwing off the mound there … that meant something to them.
“A lot of kids don’t really appreciate the history of our sport and it was kind of surreal to play on the same field as all those legends. It was a lot of fun.”
League Park was reopened in 2014 with an updated field and museum. The original ticket office and a small portion of the brick facade remain in place.
Senior starting pitcher Jeff Spencer improved to 3-0 this season, scattering four hits over seven innings. He struck out six while walking just one batter.
Spencer was aggressive early in the count, throwing first-pitch strikes to 19 of the 24 batters he faced.
“It’s always important to get ahead,” Spencer said. “Then you can attack the hitters with what you want to throw. It’s a lot easier for me to be able to attack the hitters with the pitches I want to throw with the defense I have behind me.”
Elyria Catholic (11-1, 6-0 GLC) defeated the Green Wave (5-7, 2-4) for the second time in as many days. EC hammered Holy Name 11-2 Monday (April 17) at home.
The Panthers jumped on Holy Name early, scoring three runs in the top of the first inning. Andrew Abrahamowicz singled in Tony LoParo and Jace Drwal knocked in Leighton Banjoff with a sacrifice fly to left.
Spencer scored the final run of the inning when Holy Name botched a rundown with Spencer caught between third and home.
“That gave me a lot of confidence going out there,” Spencer said of taking the mound with a 3-0 lead. “Our bats are starting to come alive, which is great for any of our pitchers.”
The Green Wave got a pair of runs back in the bottom of the first. Matt Springer doubled and scored on Jack Stolar’s bases-loaded walk, then Liam Cunningham, who was hit by a pitch, trotted home on Dan Wimsett’s sacrifice fly.
Elyria Catholic added a pair of unearned runs in the top of the third. Holy Name scored a run in the bottom of the inning, but that was it.
Holy Name’s biggest scoring opportunity came in the bottom of the sixth when Aiden Hickey was hit by a pitch and Stolar legged out an infield single.
Spencer was able to escape by striking out Pat Montowski and getting Wimsett to hit into an around-the-horn double play.
“I thought their pitcher did an outstanding job, especially when we got some men on base,” Holy Name coach Tim Carter said. “He really bore down and made some nice pitches. He induced that double play in that late rally we had and threw a fantastic game.
“They took it, really earned it. We didn’t give it to them.”
Carter said his batters knew Spencer was going to pound the strike zone early in the count … they just couldn’t do anything about it.
“We started looking for it,” he said of first-pitch strikes. “The kids were talking about it on the bench, trying to jump on the first pitch because he was laying it in there. He was throwing hard enough that we just couldn’t center the ball.”
Elyria Catholic coach Bruce Lisicky liked Spencer’s aggressiveness.
“Jeff settled in after that first inning and was able to cruise after that,” he said. “We told him to work ahead and the hitters would start to chase his pitches. He was able to do that.
“Yesterday they were aggressive early in the count and they were the same way today. Jeff did a great job of locating that first pitch.”
The Panthers return to action on Wednesday (April 19) with a noon game against St. Mary’s Prep from Orchard Lake, Michigan.