LUCASVILLE — Making it out of the Southeast District and past the regional stage has been no easy task for area baseball teams in recent years.
It takes a special team with special players, and most generally a special run to be among the state’s “Final Four”.
Since the Valley Indians’ last baseball regional championship (prior to this year’s) in 1977, only two Scioto County “small-school” teams played their way into the state tournament — Green doing so in the Class A state tournament in 1986 and Notre Dame in 1992 in the Division IV tournament.
Valley’s regional title win in 1977 was the program’s 4th in a span of 12 years (‘65, ‘66, ‘75, ‘77). It came shortly after the Indians put together a streak of 50-straight wins from the beginning of the 1975 season that featured their Class A state championship team until the end of the ‘76 season in the district stage to Chillicothe Bishop Flaget.
Those Indians reached the pinnacle — and now it’s time to see if this year’s streaking bunch can do the same.
Although it’s not quite a 50-game streak Valley (20-11) is boasting entering this year’s Division IV state tournament in Akron, the Indians are unbeaten against D-IV opponents — going 12-0 in those games since the beginning of the season back on March 27.
In their wins over Paint Valley and Berlin Hiland in the regional tourney and Leesburg Fairfield and Huntington at the district stage, Valley out-scored their opponents 20-4 and ended the program’s 44-year draught between state appearances.
“I give our success this year to the mindset of our kids — they played with nothing to lose,” Valley coach Nolan Crabtree said. “It’s been a while to get over that hump. A lot of these guys, they’ve had success as little leaguers playing in the state tournament, played travel ball with baseball and basketball, had a great run this year in the state football playoffs. These guys have been played in some big games.”
At the entrance of ‘old’ Valley High School and Valley Middle School on Lucasville-Minford Road, you’ll see a slew of signs honoring their Akron-bound baseball team.
A procession of fire trucks and personal cars lined up near the Valley school grounds helped welcome home the regional champions on Saturday after their 5-2 win over Berlin Hiland at Beavers Field. A larger celebration caravan can be expected in Lucasville if the Indians win two more games at Canal Park this weekend — starting Friday with Van Wert Linconview.
Two seniors in their starting lineup that were also members of the ‘18 district championship team that competed in Division III, Andrew Andronis and Breckon Williams, said being apart of the Final Four club helps bring pride to their community.
“Being apart of that is huge for us,” Andronis said. “It’s been a long time since we’ve won regionals and been to state, to now be a part of that is a great feeling.”
“It makes us feel good and it makes the community feel good. We’ve got great support from our community and it feels like we’re being supported more than ever before,” Williams said.
Lincolnview (23-8), their opponent come Friday at 10 a.m., dropped four games to D-IV teams during their regular season schedule. However, none of those came with likely starter Landon Price — a class of 2022 Ohio State commit — on the mound.
More on the likely matchup between Price and Indians sophomore George Arnett will be discussed in The Daily Times’ game preview of Valley-Lincolnview.
Lincolnview — like Valley — is making their first return to state in nearly four decades, last doing so in 1974 — one year before the Indians’ only state title.
Knowing they’re just two wins away from any team’s ultimate goal and completing a 14-0 run against D-IV opponents, Crabtree says his confidence in his group’s ability to compete is in full.
“I know they’re (Lincolnview) a program like us that it’s been a long time since they’ve been to the state tournament. They’re like us, they’re going to be ready to play,” Crabtree said. “I’m just confident in our kids right now and I think we’re going to up and compete.”
The winner of Valley-Lincolnview will face the winner of Friday’s second D-IV semifinal between Fort Loramie and Warren John F. Kennedy.
The D-IV state championship game is set for Saturday, June 12 at 4:00 p.m.
Reach Jacob Smith at (740) 353-3101 ext. 1930, by email at [email protected], or on Twitter @JacobSmithPDT © 2021 Portsmouth Daily Times, all rights reserved