If there was ever a sectional baseball tournament when an ill-timed bad throw or muffed fielding play could swing a handful of tightly played games, it could be the spring of 2022.
The two northern Dayton Division IV sectionals, 3 and 4, include several upset-minded teams hovering within a few games of .500 and clubs also blessed with strong-armed aces who will make their squads dangerous when they take the mound.
As one coach put it, “When you face a number one pitcher in the sectional this year, you had better be on your toes. Or you will be out on your heels losing a 1-0 or 2-1 heartbreaker.”
As an example, hard-throwing junior Warren Shockey has recorded 70 strikeouts for Riverside. He likely matches up against the crafty Carson Regula of Jackson Center in a first-round tilt next Monday at the home of the Pirates. That game could set the tone for what’s in store for Dayton 3 and 4.
The Riverside-Jackson Center winner gets Bradford and then possibly Fort Loramie, the number one seed.
In Dayton sectional 2, Tri-County North and possibly Springfield Catholic Central are headed for a showdown in the second round. This also appears to be a well-played toss-up with both teams capable of making noise in a sectional final.
Coaches have said this spring they heard rumblings from fans that it was a “down year” for area baseball. You might think this point is proven by the 11 losses absorbed by Fort Loramie and Russia, which is the number two seed.
Nope. Not the case.
Most of the Redskins and Raiders defeats have come at the hands of non-Div. IV programs. Their schedules outside the Shelby County Athletic League are challenging, for sure. Each school, for example, played powerhouses Coldwater and Chaminade-Julienne.
The phrase, “a balanced field,” seems to best describe the tournament this month.
“There is no prohibitive favorite,” said one coach. “If a club and its top hurler get hot, that squad becomes the new team to beat.”
Regular-season losses spanning a difficult high school baseball schedule can make a team better, much better, for a post-season run, without question.
Just ask those connected with this year’s D-IV Newark Catholic program east of Columbus. The Green Wave is ranked third in Ohio, has thumped at least three D-II schools and been clipped by a couple as well.
Playing in a conference that blends programs from multiple divisions, NC once competed in a state final with 20 regular season losses and has won D-IV state titles with ten and eleven setbacks. Incredibly, since 1980, Newark Catholic has won nine state championships in 14 state appearances
Interestingly, they have also dropped two state finals to Fort Loramie, a state semifinal to Minster, and regional contests in Springfield to both the Redskins and Russia.
This spring, the Green Wave placed itself in Central District I, not II, thus avoiding the Princeton D-IV regional. Instead they could advance to the Lancaster regional where number one-rated Lucasville Valley could be waiting, along with state-ranked Toronto or Berlin Hiland.
This doesn’t make a lot of sense, does it?
Well, the curious choice by Newark Catholic is a clear indication of how much respect this program and the rest of the state have for D-IV baseball in the southwest district.
Just last year, the Green Wave was nipped in a district final for the first time ever by rival Lancaster Fisher Catholic. Fisher, as a result of a tourney draw it should have re-thought, then made the long trek to Princeton, not the short commute to Lancaster. Central Ohio then witnessed a Russia blow out of Fisher Catholic in a regional semi-final.
Again, a testament to the strength of the southwest region. Thus, in 2022, Newark Catholic is staying over a hundred miles away.
This season, Fort Loramie, not Russia, could meet the Central District representative in a regional semifinal on May 26.
So, you still rate this an “off” year for D-IV high school baseball?
Programs in central Ohio will set you straight.