Brock Netter, Staff Writer
So, by now, everyone in the state of Ohio has heard the news that school has been canceled for the remainder of the year, which additionally means that spring sports have all but officially received the axe as well.
While our hearts break for the seniors across our coverage area who unfairly surrender their final year of eligibility, it’s motivated us even more to give a spotlight to our athletes.
We’ve decided to come out of the gates firing with some predictions. Bold predictions.
Here’s five of them for a 2020 baseball season that could have been.
NOTE: There are no predictions of the Southern Hill Athletic Conference because SOSA wasn’t covering the SHAC during spring sports in 2019.
5. Multiple All-Ohioan honorees
Last season, four area players received All-Ohio honors … Westfall’s Connor Spohn and Matt Baemel in Division III, along with Clay’s Clay Cottle and Ironton St. Joe’s Isaac Whaley in Division IV. That tells you how hard it is to earn All-Ohio honors when you consider just how many special teams and players we had. However, with the returning talent in the area ready to make a name for themselves, it’s possible that Cottle and Spohn found their names again on the list, alongside players like Minford’s Elijah Vogelsong, Unioto’s Cameron DeBord, Waverly’s Derek Eblin and a whole list of others. It’s not far-fetched to say that five-plus players in our coverage area would’ve earned All-Ohio status.
4. Westfall wins back-to-back district titles
While my belief sides with Paint Valley sitting atop the SVC, as you see below, Westfall had all the makings to go back-to-back with district hardware. Star ace in Luke Blackburn? Check. Solid supporting cast featuring Jayden Hammond, Titan Williams and Connor Spohn? Check. Head coach who knows how to win in Trevor Thomas? Check. Although the Mustangs could’ve had a rocky start with some new pieces being added to the mix, everything would’ve been figured out by May for another district run.
3. Paint Valley wins Scioto Valley Conference crown
The SVC, as a whole, is one of the most talented conferences, arguably, in the state. And year after year, it’s a slight roll of the dice as to which team comes out on top as the eventual conference champion. I believe that honor would’ve belonged to Paint Valley this season, and due to pitching. The Bearcats have four top-notch hurlers in Lane Mettler, Cruz McFadden, John Alley and Brock Blanton, who recently committed to Division I Eastern Kentucky. Each can mow through lineups with relative ease. Although losing Macky McDonald, and several others, is a big loss, coach Shayne Combs’ Bearcats would’ve found ways to replace the lost production and propel themselves to the top of the SVC once again.
2. Minford fills roster, wins Gold Ball in SOC II
This would’ve been a huge accomplishment, considering how top heavy the SOC II is between Minford, Wheelersburg and Waverly. Before the last two seasons, for quite awhile, the conference belonged to Wheelersburg. But last year, the Pirates and Falcons shared the title … and Minford won it outright for the first time since 1968 in 2018. This year was Minford’s year to win it outright again, as the program was bringing back Elijah Vogelsong, Nathan McCormick, Bailey Rowe and a handful of others from last season’s regional team. Despite tough battles from the Pirates and Tigers, the Falcons would have prevailed for an outright SOC II title in undefeated fashion.
1. Jackson wins the Frontier Athletic Conference
This is what bold predictions are all about. Jackson has won a combined five games inside of conference play over the past two seasons, and it has a new head coach in Josh McGraw. But on the flip side to that, the Ironmen were returning eight starters to the lineup, including Brice Graham, Ty Broermann, Isaac Kuhn, Logan Massie and a list of others. In what was a banner year for Jackson’s boys with an undefeated football season, back-to-back sectional titles in soccer and a school-record boys basketball season, it was baseball’s turn to win some hardware. McGraw was the right coach to hire to let that happen and he had the roster to support that statement.