Brett Filko struck out 13 batters and went the distance on the mound to lead the Bishop Ryan Celtics to the Hamilton-Wentworth Catholic high school baseball championship Thursday (Oct. 23).
Bishop Ryan defeated the Cardinal Newman Cardinals, 8-2, at Mohawk Sports Complex to capture its first league title in the sport since 2001.
“Their pitcher was fabulous,” Newman coach Matt Di Cosmo said. “He had a good mix of pitches. It was like we couldn’t see the ball.”
Filko blanked the Cardinals through the first six innings before Ethan Hammond-Srsan and Tyrell Herbert drove in a run apiece with a double and triple, respectively. Newman finished with only six hits in the seven-inning contest.
The first-place Celtics broke open a scoreless tie with two runs in the fourth inning before adding three in the fifth and three more in the sixth.
A tall right-hander, Filko struck out the side in both the fourth and fifth frames, stranding the bases loaded on each occasion. “That was the turning point … we never looked back from there,” Filko said. “When we got the first two runs it was a weight off my shoulders.”
Di Cosmo agreed that Filko’s ability to escape jams in the fourth and fifth was key.
“If we had scored runs in those innings we would have changed the whole atmosphere of the game,” the Newman coach said. “That might have given them the momentum because the bottom half of the fourth inning was when they scored their first run.”
Shortstop Zachary Cameron of Bishop Ryan led off the fourth by connecting for a single up the middle off Newman starting pitcher Hammond-Srsan. That was followed by an RBI double down the left-field line by Kris Nichols. The second run crossed the plate on an errant pickoff attempt at third base by catcher Josh Powell.
The Celtics increased their lead in the fifth when Ian Jordan singled, Cameron got hit by a pitch and Filko socked an opposite-field two-run triple over the right fielder’s head. Another hit by third baseman Nichols – a single — then enabled Filko to score.
Cameron’s two-run double and an RBI single by Filko capped the scoring for Bishop Ryan in the sixth.
Celtics coach Joe DiIorio said Grade 12 student Filko may have been a little wild – four walks and two hit batters – because he also pitched the maximum of four innings during Tuesday’s 4-3 semi-final playoff victory over the three-time defending champion Bishop Tonnos Titans. In championship games, however, pitchers are allowed to be on the mound for seven innings.
“I told Brett that I was going with him today until his arm fell off,” DiIorio said. “He’s the senior man. He’s my ace. He got into a bit of trouble but the strikeout was a big part of his game. Our guys rallied behind him. We played good defence and got timely hitting.”
Jordan, the Celtics Grade 10 catcher, sparked that BR defensive effort by throwing out two runners who were attempting to steal second base. Said DiIorio: “He’s a special catcher. He has a hose for an arm. That’s an asset for us behind the plate because it totally neutralizes the running game … especially if we have a right-handed pitcher that has a high leg kick.”
Newman’s infield defence excelled at times, too, turning two well-executed double plays.
“Overall,” Di Cosmo said, “I think we were evenly matched. They just got hits at the right time and we didn’t. That was the difference.”
Bishop Ryan advanced to the 2014 league final, too, but fell 3-1 against Tonnos.
“We’ve been there before,” DiIorio said. “so we knew we could be successful this year. It wasn’t any sort of arrogance or cockiness. We kept an eye on the prize. That allowed us to push through.”
Bishop Ryan, which completed an undefeated season, will take part in regional playoff action next spring.