Irish fall short of final but carry on tradition

Right after the Ursuline baseball team beat Orrville in a regional final, there was no excessive celebration or need for cockiness.

“We’re all business,” outfielder Anthony Rohan said. “If we win the state title, we can party all summer. We’re not trying to party now. We’re trying to win.”

Though the Irish failed to reach their fifth state title game and win a third, they continued a long, proud tradition for the program.

“I’m glad we made it this far, but can’t say I’m happy that it’s over,” Rohan said. “I haven’t accepted it yet. It’ll take time then it’s time to move on.”

The modest and soft-spoken senior is as much a part of the Ursuline framework as The Golden Dawn is for post-game football meals. And he’s had his straight-forward approach to the game since he started in Boardman little league.

During his middle school years, Rohan was Ursuline’s batboy when his brother, Eddie, was a catcher for the Irish. In 2006 and 2007, Eddie’s junior and senior seasons, they made it to the state semifinals.

“I don’t think I was very excited then because I was younger and wasn’t really a part of it,” Rohan said. “I was just trying to get the bat, bring it back and do my job.”

Coach Sean Durkin remembers meeting Anthony for the first time.

“He’d show up everyday in baseball pants ready to play,” Durkin said. “He looked like a ballplayer when he was 10 years old.”

Rohan, along with pitcher Sam Donko and infielders Harry Finelli and Ryan Strollo, have been four-year varsity starters.

“I have a unique closeness with this group of kids,” Durkin said. “I’ve come to get to know them very well and become close with them.”

Rohan batted over .400, this year. He had two hits in Thursday’s 2-0 loss to Wheelersburg and two in the regional final. On April 7, 2012, Rohan pulled his hamstring in a game against Springfield. It still nags him and he’s had to miss close to 10 games in the past two seasons because of it. After a double in the sixth inning against the Pirates, Rohan limped around the bases in noticeable pain. He’s usually had a pinch runner come in when he reaches base, but that wasn’t the case in Columbus.

“I told them it could be our last game,” Rohan said. “I wasn’t saving anything – just going until it goes.”

He had plans to walk-on with the Ohio State baseball team, next spring. But due to his injury, he’s seriously considering attending Youngstown State where he’ll still play baseball.

“It’s my life,” he said. “There’s no way I can just step away from it.”

Eddie was an All-American at Winthrop University and a four-time All-Big South Conference first-team selection. He batted .322 in his collegiate career with 47 home runs and 173 RBIs. Eddie was a 50th round selection by the New York Mets in the 2011 MLB First Year Player Draft and he’ll start his second season with the Brooklyn Cyclones of the New York-Penn League later this month.

“He came to Eastwood Field last year and we got to see him play, which was very cool,” Anthony said. “We went down to Florida for spring training, too.”

A cousin, Greg Rohan of South Range, is playing minor league ball in the Chicago Cubs organization.

Durkin calls the Rohan family “a great story.” So, as one chapter ends, another begins for the Irish. They return Michael Montalbano, the leading hitter, with 11 experienced underclassmen. Still, the memories of this team will last forever.

“I love them,” Montalbano said. “They picked me up when I was down, I picked them up when they were down. This team is something that’s really special.

“I was very excited to come here and have a chance to win a state championship. They were my brothers – they all were.”

That alone is something to appreciate and celebrate.