A handful of high school baseball and softball teams in the Star Beacon had managed to get in a game or two heading into the second full week of the 2014 season.
As is the case in Major League Baseball, where every team has the same goal — win the World Series — high school baseball and softball squads also have the same destination in mind — reaching the state tournament.
Thanks in large part to the Ohio High School Athletic Association abolishing high school girls sports after the 1937-38 school year, baseball squads have had a gigantic head start in terms of tradition compared to their softball counterparts.
A half-century, to be exact.
More on that in a bit, however. First, let’s take a look back at the Ashtabula County baseball and softball squads to reach the Final Four.
1932 — Rock Creek. The Pirates became the first Ashtabula County team to reach a state tournament, qualifying in Class B. The Rock Creek squad bowed to Dayton Fairmount in a semifinal clash, 13-5.
1954 — Coach Stan Humphrey leads the Rowe Vikings into the Class B Final Four, falling in the semifinals to Waverly Woodward, 2-0.
1962 — Eight years later, Humphrey takes Rowe back to the Final Four, bowing out in the semifinals against Lincoln View, 3-1.
1974 — In its first year of competition, the St. John Heralds baseball squad reaches the Final Four, under the direction of coach Bill Schmidt, but its defeated in the semifinals.
1979 — Schmidt takes the Heralds back to the state tournament but is knocked off once again in the semifinals.
1983 — The third time is the charm as Schmidt’s third team to reach the Final Four wins the Class A state championship, destroying Miller City in the championship game, 10-0, behind the complete-game, shutout performance by hurler Mike Hayes.
2012 — Grand Valley. Coach Russ Bell's Mustangs reach the Division III Final Four — storming to 30 wins in 31 games along the way — before falling to Lima Central Catholic, 2-0, in Huntington Park. Led by Star Beacon Ashtabula County co-Player of the Year Mitchell Lake and fellow first-teamers Mason Berkey, A.J. Henson, Adam Moodt and Jeromy Rockafellow, GV becomes the first county baseball nine to reach the state tournament since the 1983 Class A state champions — the St. John Heralds — did so, 29 years previous.