One more game
JFK athletes close amazing year with another title chance
AKRON — For the second time this school year, a John F. Kennedy program has battled all the way to the state final.
The baseball incarnation of the Eagles put up three runs in the bottom of the third and held off Fort Loramie to win 3-2 in a Division IV state semifinal on Saturday at Canal Park, punching their ticket to the season’s final game.
“We get to play another game tomorrow and I’m glad to say that,” Eagles coach Jim Ciambotti said. “What a great feeling. What a great feeling for these kids in our school. We’ve just got one more to go.”
Caleb Hadley broke the game open with a double that brought home Alex DeSalvo and Gavin Shrum to put the team up 3-0. Santino Ciambotti was driven home by Shrum earlier in the inning.
Hadley, a freshman, made contact on a curveball from Fort Loramie pitcher Caeleb Meyer that went foul. When another curveball came Hadley’s way on the next pitch, he knew what to do to place it just right.
“I just got back-to-back curveballs and I missed the first one, it went a little bit foul,” Hadley said. “I got another one and I couldn’t miss it.”
Hadley is one of seven players on the 11-man Eagles roster who entered the season with no high school baseball experience. According to Hadley, it took a while to settle in and find a groove as a team, but since then Kennedy has been firing on all cylinders.
“I feel like toward the end (of the season) we went on a six-game winning streak and started playing as a team,” Hadley said. “We really found our identity at the end of the season.”
A big part of shaping that identity was one of the team’s four returners, Cam Hollobaugh, who manned the mound Saturday. Hollobaugh struck out seven in the win, surrendering four hits.
“That’s just (number) 9, that’s what he does,” Hadley said about Hollobaugh. “He just does his thing every time he’s out on the mound. Every time he’s got the ball, you’ve got to feel confident going into the game.”
Regardless of the outcome of today’s game, this will be the last time Hollobaugh steps on the field in a Kennedy uniform. The senior is thrilled he could reach the end of the road before moving on to college.
“It means everything to me to go out of my last year in playing the state championship game,” Hollobaugh said. “To go as far as I can and play my last game. It’s the last game anybody can play, so it means a lot.”
Fort Loramie closed the gap in the fourth inning with a run, but the Eagles (21-9) were able to get out of the inning without surrendering any more.
It happened again in the top of the seventh when Fort Loramie chipped in a second run to bring them within a run while having a runner in scoring position.
With two outs on the board and a runner on second, freshman third baseman Michael Condoleon made the final out of the game to seal Kennedy’s trip back to Akron today.
“There was a lot of relief there,” Shrum said about the final out. “It took a bit. It felt like we had a 45-pound weight on our chest, but we got out of the jam and we’re on to the next game.”
That ‘one more’ for the Eagles is Van Wert Lincolnview. The teams will square off at 4 p.m. at Canal Park for a chance to bring home the big trophy. For Ciambotti, the keys to the game are the same things that worked for the team Saturday.
“Pitching, defense and hopefully we can manufacture some runs like we did today,” he said.
KENNEDY 3, FORT LORAMIE 2
Division IV state semifinal
Fort Loramie (27-4) 000 100 1 – 2 4 0
Kennedy (21-9) 003 000 x – 3 5 2
WIN: Cam Hollobaugh (7 strikeouts and 2 walks). LOSS: Caeleb Meyer (2 strikeouts and 0 walks). TWO OR MORE HITS: K – Gavin Shrum 2. DOUBLES: K – Caleb Hadley. TWO OR MORE RBIs: K – Hadley 2.