The thunderstorms held off, no one got injured and Highlandâ€™s baseball team had the good fortune of avoiding a meeting with powerful Cuyahoga Falls Walsh Jesuit until Friday.
Other than that, there wasnâ€™t a whole lot of immediate positive news for the Hornets, who fell 17-0 in five innings in the Tiffin Division II Regional championship at Heminger Field.
â€œKnowing this is my last high school game and I just lost 17-0 is not a good feeling at all,â€ senior Brenton Krivos said.
Things went so badly for the Hornets in their two-touchdown-and-a-field-goal loss they were actually behind by a safety, 2-0, before the game was even supposed to kick off.
With a stiff wind blowing, the threat of thunderstorms looming and both teams ready to go â€” or at least Highland thought it was ready to go â€” tournament officials began the contest about 10 minutes prior to its scheduled 2 p.m. start.
The Warriors quickly put up a two-spot, and by the end of the day their score by innings looked like a zip code â€” 27125. Highland, meanwhile, dialed â€œOâ€ for five straight frames.
Walsh also beat Highland 11-1 and 10-1 during the regular season, meaning it won three games by a cumulative score of 38-2, but the Hornets took no great solace in losing to what was indisputably a better team.
â€œAs a competitor, you feel like you can go out there and beat them every single time you play them,â€ Hornets senior Reese Montesano said. â€œIt stings. I hate losing, especially to these guys. They come out expecting to win. I wanted to give them something they could cower about. It just hurts.â€
It might have hurt even worse, but Walsh, which used 17 players in all, began substituting freely in the top of the fourth inning.
â€œTheyâ€™re the best of the best,â€ Highland senior Jeff Avena said. â€œI think theyâ€™re going to be state champions. Thatâ€™s what Iâ€™m banking on right now.â€
The Warriors (26-3) may do exactly that, but the Hornets (15-13) have no reason to apologize for their season after reaching the regional championship for the second straight year.
â€œIt might take a little while (for it to sink in),â€ Krivos said, â€œbut we had a great season.â€
To put what the five seniors on the roster â€” Krivos, Montesano, Avena, Cory Johnston and John Valentic â€” helped the Hornets accomplish, consider that Highlandâ€™s varsity was 1-21 when they were in eighth grade.
That was Jeff Rollysonâ€™s first year as coach, but once his players bought into his theory of playing intelligent baseball with a hard-nosed attitude and solid work ethic, the program took off.
The Hornets went 12-15 in 2005, 15-10 in â€™06, 23-9 last year and won eight of their last 10 games to finish 15-13 in â€™08. Over those four seasons, Highland won 12 tournament games, including four in 2007 and five this year.
â€œIt was nice getting back to this point,â€ Montesano said. â€œIt all came together at once, but today we just met a helluva team.â€
The no-geographic-boundary Warriors, who got two home runs from Kevin Emmandorfer, are certainly a great team.
Walsh definitely didnâ€™t need any help from Highland, but the Hornets, who played so brilliantly in their previous postseason games, were in a giving mood.
When Montesano reached first on a walk to start the bottom of the first, he was promptly picked off.
What should have been a Walsh sacrifice bunt turned into a bases-loaded situation when pitcher Bryce Sedio unwisely tried to get an out at third.
A comebacker to the mound that should have been an easy out at the plate turned into a run when Johnston threw to third instead of running directly at the hung-up runner.
With the Hornets already down 10-0 heading into the bottom of the third, Rollyson chanted, â€œLetâ€™s play seven,â€ a plea for his team to avoid falling victim to the 10-run mercy rule.
Anthony Petrilla promptly led off with an infield hit, only to get picked off on a missed bunt attempt.
It was that kind of miserable day for the Hornets, but that should not â€” and will not â€” detract from another outstanding tournament run by an outstanding group of young men.
â€œToday we didnâ€™t do it,â€ Krivos said, â€œbut no one expected us to be here.â€
Noland may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 330-721-4061.