Prep Baseball Report

No 'Last Dance' For High School Seniors: Part Three

Bruce Hefflinger
PBR Ohio Senior Writer

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No 'Last Dance' For High School Seniors: Part Three

PART THREE: The following is the third of an in-depth six-part story looking at the 2020 high school baseball season in Ohio which was officially cancelled this week.

Last season Chaminade-Julienne repeated as Division II state champions, the seventh school to ever win back-to-back titles in Ohio. The last time that had happened before came in 2016 when Defiance and Newark Catholic made it two straight crowns in Division II and IV, respectively.

With an impressive group of returnees, the thought of a three-peat was there for C-J. That feat has been accomplished only twice in Ohio high school baseball history, Newark Catholic in 2002-03-04 and Cincinnati Elder in 1958-59-60.

But the idea of C-J making it three in a row is no more.

Not without a 2020 season.

That idea will have to wait until 2021.


For players like Saint Ignatius senior college commits Michael McNamara, Connor Mays, Nick Fletcher and Teddy Eyink, it is important to look ahead to a future of playing baseball at the next level. After all, there will be no chance at bringing home another state crown.

After needing 13 innings to defeat Hilliard Darby 4-3 in last season’s Division I state semifinal game and 10 frames to beat Mentor 4-2 in the finals, St. Ignatius will not have the opportunity to defend that title this year.

The same goes with Chaminade-Julienne in Division II, Coldwater in D-III and Toronto in D-IV. There will be no title defense nor the enjoyment of being part of making a memory to last a lifetime..

“Being able to have a front row seat and watch how our players bought into one another and genuinely cared about each other’s success while being successful as a team is something I’ll never forget as a coach,” pointed out Toronto head coach Brian Perkins, whose team beat Antwerp in the state semis and Jeromesville Hillsdale in the finals a year ago. “Last year taught me that I am very fortunate to be surrounded by great people in my life. I’ve been blessed with a very supportive family, loyal and dedicated coaches and players that believe in us coaches as much as they believe in their teammates and Toronto baseball.”

Coldwater, which has made it to state on 21 occasions - including seven this century - with seven overall championships, defeated Roger Bacon in the semifinals last year before a 1-0 victory over Lafayette Ridgewood in the title contest.

“The 2019 season was certainly one to remember,” Coldwater coach Brian Harlamert said. “The biggest memory for me is our regional finals game with Archbold. We came back in the seventh and pulled it out in eight innings. The state Final Four was great, but the memories of the regionals will always be so awesome.”

Down 3-0, the Cavs scored four in the top of the seventh to take a 4-3 lead, then saw Archbold tie the game in the bottom of the frame, before earning earning a trip to state with a run in the eighth to pull out a 5-4 victory

Saint Ignatius head coach Brad Ganor knows well about exciting victories after needing 23 innings for two wins at state in 2019.

“Last season was memorable for so many reasons, and obviously winning the title was the cherry on top,” Ganor noted. “But I said this last year and I still believe it...if we would have lost in the finals, or even earlier, I would have thought back on all the memories we created along the way and still felt the season was a success.

“We took an amazing trip to Florida, we played great regular-season baseball, we had countless meals together, we laughed and we cried. All those things made 2019 a great season.”

While Ganor was looking forward to trying to get back to state in 2020, C-J’s Michael Barhorst closed out his coaching career on top at Akron last June after leading the Eagles past Van Wert and Gilmour Academy for the Eagles’ second straight D-II state title.

“My biggest memory of last season is our team answering the challenge of being defending state champs game after game,” Barhorst related. “We played a very tough schedule and our team answered the challenge every night. To actually get back to state and repeat was really incredible. I know how hard it is to get there once, but to go three straight seasons and win the last two is still hard for me to believe. And, of course, the memory of it being my final season coaching and going out a winner topped it off.”

But not getting an opportunity to repeat brings disappointment.

“The 2019 season was special and we wanted the chance to defend our title,” Harlamert noted. “Some of us will be able to next spring in 2021, but the hardest part is not doing it with the eight seniors of 2020. I recall in 2018 after being state runners-up how proud I was of that group who were so involved in helping our 2019 seniors reach the goal of the state championship.”

Perkins was looking forward to building on a Toronto tradition that has included four state trips, including two in the past three years.

“From the last out of the state championship game, our senior class has made it their mission to carry on the tradition that has been left to them from previous years,” Perkins related. “For them to not get that opportunity has to be a major letdown, but as a team we all are very aware of the importance of the situation we are in and know that the OHSAA has the best interest of our student-athletes.”

Ganor had a loaded team back at Saint Ignatius after bringing home the second state baseball championship in school history.

“There are no guarantees in high school sports, but like every division champion we felt that we had a team that was very talented and had the capabilities to make it to the Final Four,” explained Ganor, who had four regulars back along with three pitchers that saw time on the mound last year at state. “There is so much that goes into winning a title that we could never envision, but I loved our team coming out of the gates.”

Gabe NardGabe Nard, a Duke commit who gave up just one earned run in 4.2 innings as a starting pitcher in last year’s state championship game, was confident like his Ignatius head coach.

“The most disappointing part of not getting to have a spring season is the fact that we were riding so high off the state championship win and now we can't prove to people we could do it again,” the sophomore shortstop/pitcher said. “After winning state last year, we had a different pep to our step as some would say. Everyone was clicking, the bond between the team became so tight.

“The fact that we will not have a chance to prove what we are made of is so tough. Each and everyone of the players and coaches poured their heart out to better themselves and the team. It is so hard to accept the fact that we won't be competing to defend our title.”

The disappointment is two-fold for Barhorst, a 1985 graduate of Chaminade-Julienne who coached for 20 years at his alma mater before retiring after last season.

“The most disappointing part of this season being cancelled for me is not getting the chance to see my son take over the team as head coach,” Barhorst said in reference to the new C-J mentor Todd Barhorst. “I’m also disappointed that the seniors didn’t get their last season in high school. Our 2020 class has been to the state final game three straight years and it would’ve been interesting to see how they performed this year. I believe they had the ability to make another strong run toward state.”

Unfortunately, it is something we will never find out.

AHEAD: Part Four of this story will look at what players and coaches across the state have learned with this ordeal.