CAMBRIDGE - Sometimes it's the journey that's important and not the destination. The adage appears to apply to the season the Catholic Central baseball team completed.
The Crusaders will certainly remember losing to Hiland 16-2 Thursday on Don Coss Field in Cambridge. A loss of this magnitude in the district final certainly stings. Yet, the loss doesn't override the strides the team made this season.
Catholic Central finished 22-7 overall, and the Crusaders were named co-sectional champions during Donnie Young's first year at the helm of the program - a year where the new head coach relied on seniors Jimmy Panella, Steve Mihalyo, B.J. Grandinetti, Adam Lyons, David Bertoia, Brannt Pieniazek and Joey Irvin.
"It's been a good year," said Young. "Our seniors did everything we asked of them. We're trying to build something. We got off to a nice start to our season. I didn't think we'd get as far as we already did this year with our program just starting out this year. They stuck with me, and their focus was always on the team. It showed.
"We've done so much, but there's so much we still want to achieve. It's hard to accomplish everything in such a short period of time. We're now off to a great start, and we'll continue to build on this step with our younger guys. We're losing a lot with our seniors, but we also have some really good players coming back next season."
The game itself began as a slow boil for Hiland. Neither team was able to score in the first inning, but both lighted the scoreboard in the second.
Four singles, a sacrifice bunt and a walk contributed to a three-run top of the frame for Hiland. Catholic Central countered with a Lyons' double which allowed Bertoia to score from first base.
Mihalyo toed the rubber for the Crusaders on the day. He continued to battle Hiland batters throughout the contest. The Hawks worked the count, but they were never able to fully judge Mihalyo's speeds. Mihalyo left in the fifth inning having surrendered six runs, but he also struck out five.
"We kept giving them runs early in the game," Young mentioned. "Steve pitched far too well to have given up six runs. He should have only given up one or two tops. We kept giving them extra runs.
"I felt Steve was set up better to deal with their lineup due to his off speed pitches. He was loose. He never got frustrated. And he threw a lot of good pitches."
Hiland countered with B.J. Miller on the mound. Miller only gave up three hits through the first five innings. The Hawks' bats eventually exploded in the sixth and seventh innings. Hiland scored 10 combined runs during their final two at-bats.
Catholic Central only countered with one more run. Aleks Porreca singled Panella past the plate in the sixth inning. Panella finished 2-for-3 from the last with a pair of singles. Mihalyo, Pieniazek, Grandinetti and Bertoia accounted for the final hits of the afternoon.
"We couldn't hit the ball," Young stated. "They made some nice places in the field. Their pitcher did a nice job. That's pretty much the story of the game.
"And then it snowballed a bit at the end. I don't think the final score was indicative of how the game was played."
Hiland 16, Catholic Central 2
Hiland 031 024 6 - 16 15 1
Catholic Central 010 001 0 - 2 9 1
HILAND (23-4): Miller (WP, 4K, 2BB) and Schlabach; Troyer 2S, 2RBI; Burch 2S; Miller T, RBI; Kaufman 3S, 3RBI; Schlabach D, S, RBI; Schrock D, S, 3RBI; Yoder 3S, 3RBI.
CATHOLIC CENTRAL (22-7): Mihalyo (LP, 5K, 5BB); Panella (1.2IP); Murphy (IP, 1K, 1BB) and Laukert. Grandinetti S; Mihalyo S; Panella 2S; Bertoia S; Porreca 2S, RBI; Lyons D, RBI; Pieniazek S.