By DON McCORMACK - email@example.com
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.
2000 — Led by three future Division I college athletes — freshman pitcher Adrian Tuttle, junior shortstop Char Kudlock and junior second baseman Jessica Olmstead — coach Clyde Laughlin’s Conneaut Spartans win the Division II state championship.
The Spartans edged Springfield Northwestern, 1-0, in the semifinals behind Tuttle’s brilliant, 1-hit shutout, 13-strikeout effort, then knocked off Lima Bath in the state title game, 3-1.
With the win, the Spartans became the first — and only — Ashtabula County or Northeastern Conference girls team to win a state championship.
2006 — Coach Shelley Monas, led by freshman phenom hurler Megan Dragon and the future Division I college double-play duo of Trisha Dreslinski (Hofstra) and Katie McMellen (Saint Francis) and speed-demon outfielder Lauren Childs, reach the Division II state semifinals in Ashland, only to be knocked off by eventual state champion LaGrange Keystone, 5-0.
State baseball tournaments have been staged in Ohio since 1928.
From that spring through 1970, the tournament was divided into two classifications, based on enrollment.
From 1928 through 1956, it was Class A for the larger school and Class B for the smaller ones. For some reason, though the categories remained the same, the names were changed to Class AA (bigger) and Class A (smaller) in 1957 and they remained that way through the 1970 season.
In 1971, another division was added, making it three classes — Class AAA, Class AA and Class A.
Two decades later, a fourth classification was added and the names were changed to Division I (big-school schools), Division II, Division III and Division IV, the system that is still in use.
A side note, from 1928 through 1931, the state championship games were nine-inning contests.
In 1932, the year Rock Creek became the first county team to reach the state tournament, the championship games were shortened to its present-day 7 innings.
As mentioned previous, softball faced a 50-year deficit in terms of being permitted to stage a state tournament, the first one taking place in the spring of 1978.
From that season through 2000, a three-category system was in place. From ‘’78 through 1989, the divisions were classified as Class AAA (big-school squads), Class AA and Class A. In 1990, the same system was utilized, but the names were changed to Division I (large school), Division II and Division III.
In 2001, a fourth division was added, where it still stands today.
McCormack is the sports editor of the Star Beacon. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.