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Champs at last: Ursuline captures first district title since 2015

Correspondent photo / Robert Hayes. Ursuline senior Brady Shannon fires off a pitch Wednesday evening against Rootstown.

STRUTHERS — On the biggest stage of his baseball career, despite the injuries, back issues, a broken thumb sustained this spring, when the pieces came together, Brady Shannon knew his place was on the mound.

Shannon, along with his team, was rewarded with some hardware and an 8-2 Div. III Struthers district title win over Rootstown Wednesday night.

“Once we got going and the season started, it obviously flew by, but it’s hard enough winning baseball games, and it’s real hard winning tournament games,” said first year coach Paul Kempe. “We’ve just preached that if we’re going to lose, it isn’t going to be because of us. We’re going to go down battling, these guys preserved, they set this out as a goal way back when and we got the job done.”

Shannon took to the bump and delivered for the most part, fanning six Roover hitters through his first three innings of work. He was pulled midway through the fourth and the book was closed on him with Ursuline leading 3-2 after one of his credited Rootstown runners scored after being pulled from the contest.

He still gave the Fighting Irish a strong start.

Shannon isn’t one to shy from the spotlight, but Wednesday night was different, playing for the first baseball district title in his career.

“I wanted to come out in the biggest stage of the year so far, that’s what I wanted to do, that’s what I told coach Kempe that I wanted to pitch today,” Shannon commented. “I did my best through three or four innings, and Tom (Groner) did a great job of coming in and closing the game, so props to him we played a really good game today.

“This is what every good athlete wants to do in front of all of these fans and the whole school, just play your best level at the biggest stage, that’s what I want to do. I want to play at the highest level I can no matter wherever I’m playing or what I’m doing, so I always want to be the center of attention whenever I’m playing baseball or football and just play when the stakes are high and the pressure is on, I love pressure.”

Groner kept Rootstown off the scoreboard throughout the remainder of the contest while the Ursuline staff as a whole limited Rootstown to only four hits.

After the Rovers scored their pair of runs off the Fighting Irish, Ursuline came storming back. Dylan Casey drilled an RBI knock, but with the bases loaded, Andrew Kirlia stepped into the box at Bob Cene Park with the bases juiced in a two-run contest.

Despite the situation, he kept his approach simple.

“Put the ball in play, their infield made a couple of errors, so I just thought that if I put the ball in play then something good might happen, and then luckily I found a gap,” Kirlia said about his bases-clearing single. “It felt great for sure, I thought we were only going to get one or two runners in, and then the center fielder bobbled it, and then all the runners cleared and it was just great.

“They scored two runs and we started to get lazy, and Brady Shannon pulled us in the huddle and said ‘Let’s go, we have to get this together,’ and I think after that we just picked it up and did good.”

Jack Ericson and Luca Ricchiuti also added RBIs during the winning effort for Ursuline (18-8), who’ll move on to play Apple Creek Waynedale in the regional semifinals.

sports@vindy.com

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