One year after struggling through a winless season, the Bishop Ryan Celtics have advanced to the championship game of Hamilton-Wentworth Catholic Athletic Association high school baseball.
The Celtics punched their ticket to the final with a 5-2 playoff victory over the Cathedral Gaels at Glanbrook Park Thursday (Oct. 16). In the other semi-final, the defending champion Bishop Tonnos Titans trounced the St. Mary Crusaders, 12-5, at Ancaster Park.
After the game, however, Bishop Ryan coach Joe DiIorio said he had mixed feelings about his second-place team’s latest win.
“I coached at Cathedral for six seasons,” said DiIorio, a geography teacher who switched schools last year. “The reason I left was because I got a new position at Bishop Ryan.”
And with a smile, DiIorio added: “I guess I got traded for a few baseballs.”
DiIorio said he knows several of the current Cathedral players from when he coached them in grades 9 and 10. “A little piece of me wanted them (his former Gaels) to do well today,” he said. “Which they did. They fought hard.”
Starting pitcher Brett Filko turned in a solid performance for the Celtics, limiting the Gaels to two singles in his four innings on the mound. He struck out eight and walked two.
Filko also stroked a pair of singles from the cleanup position in the batting order and made several key defensive plays when he shifted to third base. The right-hander was relieved for the final three innings by Zach Cameron, who surrendered singles to the first two batters he faced – starting pitcher Mike Ssemanda and reliever Matt Araujo – but did not allow a hit the rest of the way.
“Brett is easily our MVP right now,” DiIorio said. “He’s a five-tool player. And he’s only in Grade 11.”
The Celtics jumped out to a 2-0 first-inning lead. They then added two runs in the fourth and an insurance marker in the sixth. Cathedral struck for single runs in the second and the fifth.
An infield error from a ground ball hit by Tyreak Broome plated BR’s first two runs. And in the fourth, Filko’s single to left field drove in a pair. Tommy Thompson’s RBI ground out accounted for Bishop Ryan’s final run.
Cathedral’s Zachary Ridgewell singled and scored in the second when Ssemanda beat out an infield hit with the bases loaded.
“Six of our nine starters are in Grade 9,” DiIorio said. “They did a fantastic job. They are very composed and baseball savvy.
“I told them in the (post-game) scrum that even though there was an error, we didn’t let it continue. We snuffed it out really quickly. We didn’t let Cathedral get on any kind of roll.”
Filko and Araujo both had a chuckle when Araujo hit Filko with a pitch in the sixth inning. The reason? Familiarity.
“We play on the same Hamilton Cardinals team (Under-18),” Filko said. “We won this game with pitching and defence. The first inning when we scored two runs was the turning point. We never looked back.”
According to DiIorio, the Celtics turnaround this season is due to the fact that they have quality players.
“They understand the game,” DiIorio said. “As a coach, I can implement my own style that is effective for them. I put them in places where they will be effective.”
In the other contest, Ben Miller’s bases-loaded triple highlighted a seven-run first inning uprising for Bishop Tonnos. Nolan Roth pitched four, no-run innings for the winners. Titans’ Kevin Guild, MacKenzie Hammond and Jacob Hines also provided some clutch hitting.
Jacob Underwood and Hammond were the other pitchers for undefeated Tonnos.
The HWCAA baseball title will be decided Tuesday at 2 p.m. in Ancaster.