AKRON -- Smiles peppered Canal Park on Saturday.
And why not?
The RubberDucks opened their doors once again for two high school baseball teams to honor their seniors.
This time it was an exhibition between Walsh Jesuit and Alliance in the home of the Class AA Ducks.
It ended with the Warriors running roughshod over the Aviators 23-1, but it really wasn’t about the score as much as it was getting together one last time between the lines.
"For Alliance to step up in less than 48 hours and give everybody an opportunity to play, it’s awesome," Ducks General Manager Jim Pfander said. "It’s just one of those things I know they’ll never forget. I’m just happy to give them that opportunity here on a professional field. I’m excited about it."
The original game was supposed to feature Walsh and Massillon, but was canceled when a Tigers player tested positive for the coronavirus Thursday.
Walsh picked up right where it left off from last season’s postseason as it jumped on Nathan Heater early and often.
Run-scoring singles from Jamie Perebzak, Mason Eckelman and Kasey Kish were only a prelude to a big second inning when Eckelman sent a bases-loaded double to the gap in center field.
A two-run triple by Henry Kaczmar highlighted a four-run third inning and before Alliance could settle in, the Aviators found themselves trailing 10-0. It only got worse after that as Walsh sent 18 to the plate in a 12-run inning.
As starters, Stanley Kaczmar was 1-for-1 with a double and RBI, Henry Kaczmar was 2-for-2 with a triple and two RBIs, Bobby Perebzak was 2-for-4 with a double and three RBIs. Eckelmen wielded the big bat, with two triples, a single and four RBIs.
By the time it was over, Walsh tattooed Alliance pitching for 20 hits.
"That was awesome," Warriors pitcher Nick Leonatti said. "We have a great lineup. We knew we could get off to that start, too. It was easy to go out to the mound with that lead right away."
Leonatti, Eckelman, Jake Armsey, Drew Erdmann, Mark Serdinak and Robert Shepherd gave up five hits through seven innings before Cameron Haynes broke up the shutout with two outs in the eighth.
"They’ve been throwing strikes," Walsh coach Chris Kaczmar said. "We talked about that before the game. We played it like it was a regular baseball game with focus and a high level of intensity. You can see how special some of the young players are."
As lopsided as the score was, the night was all about honoring the seniors and Walsh’s Connor Bailey, Stanley Kaczmar, Leonatti, Jamie Perebzak and Shepherd had a blast.
"It was awesome to play with my cousins one last time," said Eckelman of the Kaczmars. "It really stinks that the season went that way."
The score wasn’t in their favor, but Joe Thompson, Logan Bell, Heater, Trevor Strata, J’Dynn Seals and Christian Hall felt good putting on the red and Columbia blues one more time.
"I just wanted to represent the city one last time," said Bell, who accounted for two of Alliance’s hits. "Missing my senior season was awful. I love these guys. I love the coaches. I’m happy I got to play with them one more time. Tonight meant a lot to me."