SCIOTO COUNTY — With Ohio high school baseball back at in 2021, the Clay Panthers were back to their winning ways in Division IV.
And, rightly rewarded late last week with the state baseball tournament taking place, a pair of Panthers were named to the Division IV all-Ohio’s highest unit —as announced by the Ohio High School Baseball Coaches Association.
That’s because seniors Shaden Malone and Clay Cottle captured first-team all-Ohio accolades, with Malone making it as an infielder and Cottle doing so as a pitcher.
Cottle is actually a repeat selection to the all-Ohio club, having made second team in Division IV as an infielder two years ago.
Besides the Panther pair, only two other Scioto County players —senior outfielder Eric Green of Wheelersburg and senior all-around performer Luke Howard of West — were named to the all-state list, and did so in Division III.
Green — the Pirates’ leadoff hitter and left fielder — garnered second-team honors, while Howard made Honorable Mention, as he primarily pitched and played shortstop.
Unfortunately, the Ohio High School Athletic Association canceled the 2020 spring sports seasons because of the coronavirus threat —or otherwise any or all of this foursome, and perhaps others from either Scioto County or even the Southeast District, would have made the list and/or even repeated to it.
All of the all-Ohio baseball selections, and any subsequent honors, are chosen by members of the OHSBCA.
Players which are selected all-state must make the first team in their respective districts.
For the Panthers, Cottle and Malone made good for a 1-2 pitching punch, as the other played shortstop when he wasn’t on the mound.
Clay captured its first outright Southern Ohio Conference Division I baseball championship since 2003, and even went a perfect 12-0 in the league in accomplishing that feat.
The Panthers then prevailed 8-7 over visiting Peebles, winning another Division IV sectional title.
This May’s triumph marked Clay’s fourth consecutive (2017, 2018, 2019, 2021) sectional championship, part of now 14 in program history —with all but four coming starting in the year 2000.
Clay coach Marc Cottle, father of Clay, said his pair of aces on the hill were basically jacks-of-all-trades.
The king of all awards, he said, was the younger Cottle and Malone making first-team all-Ohio.
“We were fortunate to get two players on the first-team all-state, but they were both very deserving of that honor,” said the coach. “Shaden had one of the best offensive years ever at Clay with over 50 hits and scored over 50 runs from the leadoff position. Clay (Cottle) had one of the top pitching years ever with 11 wins and a save. It was a pleasure to see their progress from Clay Little League Tee Ball all the way through high school.”
The only other Southeast District representative on the Division IV list was Paint Valley pitcher Brock Blanton —a second-team selection.
The Valley Indians, in advancing to the state semifinals, defeated Blanton and the Bearcats by a 2-0 count in the regional semis.
Speaking of Valley, the Indians ran into Lincolnview junior pitcher and Ohio State University commit Landon Price in that state semifinal —as Price was named the Division IV state Player of the Year.
He backed it up against the Indians, allowing only one run on two hits and one walk while striking out 14 in the Lancers’ 2-1 win.
The Division IV Coach of the Year was Brian Perkins of Toronto.
Besides Wheelersburg’s Green on the Division III second team, Westfall’s Luke Blackburn was one of three first-team pitchers.
Wheelersburg was a regional semifinalist, losing to regional runner-up Minford 2-0 in that “Sweet 16” round.
Strangely enough perhaps, Minford in Division III and Valley in Division IV did not have ANY players make all-state.
Joining Howard from the Southeast District on the 18-man Honorable Mention list were Westfall’s Titan Williams, Meigs’ Ethan Stewart and North Adams’ Cade Meade.
For a complete list of the 2021 all-Ohio baseball honorees, please visit the OHSBCA’s website at www.ohsbca.org.
Reach Paul Boggs at (740) 353-3101 ext. 1926, by email at firstname.lastname@example.org, or on Twitter @BoggsSports © 2021 Portsmouth Daily Times, all rights reserved