Despite losing three main contributors from last year’s high school championship baseball team, Bishop Ryan currently finds itself undefeated and alone in first place at the mid-point of the schedule.
The Celtics improved to 3-0 in the Hamilton-Wentworth Catholic Athletic Association standings with a 17-3 victory over the Cathedral Gaels at Mahoney Park Tuesday (Sept. 27). Earlier, Bishop Ryan wins were also by wide margins – 10-0 over the St. Thomas More Knights and 11-1 over the Cardinal Newman Cardinals.
“Those players were a big part of our run last year,” Bishop Ryan coach Joe DiIorio said of the departure of BR’s ace pitcher, centre fielder and catcher from the 2015 squad. “They left big shoes to fill. But the guys on this team have really stepped up. We’ve been spectacular in our pitching and defence and our offence has surprised me.
“It’s been pretty impressive how the guys are running the bases, situational hitting and spraying the ball all over the field. They can handle the bat well.”
Against Cathedral (0-3), the Celtics struck for four runs in the first inning, five in the second, seven in the third and one in the fourth.
Grade 11 shortstop Zachary Cameron led the Bishop Ryan attack with a double, two singles and a walk. He scored three runs and drove in three. “Our team played well,” Cameron said. “I think we can repeat as champions if everyone does their thing. We’re pretty strong this year.”
Centre fielder Luca Ramelli chipped in with an RBI double for the Celtics, while David Robichaud contributed two singles. Ethan Barclay stroked an RBI double and Billy Finlay plated two runs with a single.
Pitchers Robichaud, Nick Corey and Finlay combined to limit the Gaels to just three singles – by Nakwa Lobalu, Morgan Brown and Evan Sousa.
Lobalu, who started the game at shortstop, made several impressive defensive plays before taking over in relief of starting pitcher Brown in the fourth. Offensively, Lobalu stole two bases, walked and scored a pair of runs. Singles by Brown and Evan Sousa drove in two of the runs for the Gaels.
Said DiIorio: “Most of our team last year was in Grade 10. This year they are bigger, stronger and more competitive.”
Ramelli, a 15-year-old Grade 10 student who also plays for the Hamilton Cardinals minor organization, said the HWCAA league features some great talent. “There are guys on teams that are much older than I am. It’s tough.”
Ramelli’s team recently placed third at the Ontario Summer Games.
The HWCAA championship last season was Bishop Ryan’s first in baseball since 2001. The Celtics then went on to drop a Golden Horseshoe Athletic conference semifinal, 7-2, last spring against Georgetown’s Christ the King Jaguars.
DiIorio likes the format of teams playing for a league championship in the fall and then, if successful, taking part in Ontario Federation of School Athletic Association qualifier tournaments in June.
“Playing in the fall is beneficial because the diamonds are pristine,” the BR coach said. “We are not dealing with rain or with permits from the city. I’ve been part of entire springs (high school baseball schedules) that have been awash.”
DiIorio pointed out that high school players are coming off their summer house league or rep seasons, so they’re ready to go in September. “There’s no real pitch limits or anything like that. They have been throwing all summer. And when we play in June, all the kids by then have been with their own teams for a good month.”
The HWCAA playoffs – first and second-place finishers each earn an opening-round bye – begin with a pair of quarter-finals Wednesday, Oct. 12.