The Canton South High School baseball team is set to make its second consecutive regional tournament appearance today when the Wildcats battle Youngstown Cardinal Mooney in a Division II regional tournament semifinal contest in Hudson.
Canton South (24-4) also notched their second straight Northeastern Buckeye Conference championship this spring by posting a 12-2 league mark.
Fourth-year Wildcats skipper Trent McIlvain recently answered questions about his squad and its banner season for WKYC’s USATodayhss.com Web site.
WKYC’s USATodayhss.com: What has been your team’s motto this season? What is its significance?
Canton South baseball coach Trent McIlvain: Intensity, enthusiasm and fundamental baseball. That is what we talk about every day and try to bring every day. If we can put those ingredients together day-in and day-out, we can be very good.
WKYC: What are three adjectives that describe your team and/or its play this season?
McIlvain: Calm – we never seem to get too high or too low emotionally. Competitive – our players play highly competitive summer baseball and are intent on winning every day. If they do not, they take it personal. Goofy – they like to joke and play, which keeps us loose and makes practices and games fun.
WKYC: What has been your team’s greatest strength this season?
McIlvain: Our greatest strength lies equally in our pitching and offense. We have pitched well as a team and have had several guys compete for us in meaningful innings. Offensively, we can be potent; we have the ability to put big innings together often.
WKYC: What has been your team’s biggest weakness this season?
McIlvain: Our biggest weakness has been our inability to consistently execute small ball.
WKYC: What has been your team’s high point this season?
McIlvain: I can’t really say there has been a clear high point this season. We have been pretty consistent all year long. We really emphasize not getting too high or too low.
WKYC: What was your team’s low point this season? What did it learn from the experience?
McIlvain: Our low point came [during] a two-week span where we struggled defensively and hit a slump offensively. In those two weeks, we lost three of our four games. Since then, we’ve played very well.
WKYC: Who are your team’s leaders? What do they bring to the team?
McIlvain: We have several kids that lead this team, but our two most influential leaders are sophomores. First, outfielder/left-handed pitcher DJ Wilson. He leads with confidence and plays hard every day. His confidence and hard play are infectious to our team. Second, catcher Conner Thomson. His grittiness and determination help drive our success. They both have fun, but play hard and have high expectations.
WKYC: Who is your team’s unsung hero this season?
McIlvain: I really can’t say we have a sole unsung hero. Our pitching staff, as a whole, would take that part. Our goal coming was to be able to pitch as a team, meaning we need to be successful by using two to three pitchers per game. They have executed [that plan], and that factor has played a crucial role in our success.
WKYC: What must happen for your team to continue its tournament run?
McIlvain: We have to continue to pitch well by throwing strikes and competing for every out. Furthermore, we must play great defense and “make outs outs.” Lastly, we must execute offensively, whether it’s small ball or simply stringing together hits to jumpstart a big inning.
WKYC: When the season is long over, what will you remember most about this year’s team?
McIlvain: I will remember the goofiness and looseness of the team. They keep me loose and love to have fun. No matter the final outcome of the season, we will know we had fun and played hard.
For more Northeast Ohio high school sports news, scores, photos and videos, visit usatodayhss.com/Cleveland.