It’s that time of the year when a young man’s (not that I am any longer!) and young lady’s thoughts turn to warm spring days, the promise of summer adventures, romance, and professional sports league playoffs! Let’s see where things stand at the beginning of this week.
In the NBA, the playoffs begin May 18th with a one-year only play-in tournament, a departure from normal. In the East, the 76ers lead the pack trailed closely by the Nets and Bucks while over in the West the Jazz set the pace with the Suns and Clippers in hot pursuit. Where are the Lakers and Celtics you say? Don’t worry, with 10 teams in each conference qualifying, they’ll be there when June rolls around!
For the few Darke County hockey fans, the Colorado Avalanche and Las Vegas Golden Knights hold sway in the Western Division with 64 total points, followed by other division leaders such as the Carolina Hurricanes, Washington Capitals, and Toronto Maple Leafs. With playoff games extending into July this summer, the biggest worry is soft ice and rising mist from even the best equipped arenas and rinks around the league!
In baseball’s six divisions, only the Dodgers at 13-3 and possibly the Mets at 7-4 are living up to expectations thus far. The Reds, Red Sox, Royals, and Mariners have gotten off to unforeseen quick starts—only time will tell if they are contenders or just pretenders later in the season.
Since retiring I’ve had a chance to see more GHS ballgames this spring. The Wave boys as this is written have a 1-8 MVL record, 4-9 overall, and are fifth in the Miami Division. Tipp, Butler, and Troy are the class of the league this year while Sidney leads the weaker Valley Division. Tipp has an outstanding team batting average of .400 with Butler close behind at .397 while the Wave struggle offensively at .230. Junior Warren Hartzell leads the way hitting .318 with 2 HRs and 10 RBIs while junior Hayden Bush tops the mound staff with a 2-1 record, 2.27 ERA, and 27 strikeouts, good for fifth in the league.
The Lady Wave as usual dominate league play and statistics with a 11-0 mark, 18-1 overall. Tipp, Troy, and Sidney contend for position as the cream of the rest of the crop. The Lady Wave hit .432 as a team being paced by sophomore Skylar Fletcher hitting .586, sophomore Alaina Baughn at .542 with a league leading 39 RBIs and 6 HRs, and junior Susie Blocher at .500 with 29 RBIs and tied with Alaina with 6 HRs. Senior Grace Shaffer handles pitching duties with a 12-1 mark and league best 0.86 ERA and is backed up by sophomore Kylie Hamm at 4-0 with a 2.06 ERA. The beat goes on for Coach Jerrod Newland’s crew!
Speaking of baseball, this spring marks 55 years (55!) since the Wave boys won the MVL championship. Coming off a winless football season and a 2-17 basketball campaign (of which I played a role as a junior), the league title gave a much needed confidence boost to the GHS athletic department as well as the players and fans! The great John Suba was in his first year at the helm of the program, having inherited a team that had enjoyed some success the previous year plus an outstanding summer experience. Led by senior lefthander Steve Pipenger, the team did a lot of the little things necessary to win close games. “Pip”, in my opinion, was one of the top 3 or 4 pitchers in GHS annals and later pitched with success at Miami University.
Knowing that he’d keep the opponents held in check, we scraped out enough runs, played decent defense, and, most importantly, made plays when they were most needed to secure the title. Only a heartbreaking 1-0 extra inning loss to Springfield North in the district tournament kept us from likely advancing to the regionals. Senior Bill Cornett along with juniors Doug Sink and Jack Swank bolstered the pitching staff. Senior Bill Steck provided leadership behind the plate, with senior Jim Holland at third, senior Rick Dill at shortstop, yours truly as a junior at second, and junior Bill McVay at first base. The outfield consisted of senior Richard Harsh, junior Bruce Drew, and sophomores Steve Straub, Terry Coby, and Mike Anderson while sophomore Cary Schafer backed up Steck at catcher. A scrappy team who brought some pride back to Wave Nation when it was most needed!
It’s always fun to reminisce—anyone who’s played varsity sports in high school remembers highlights as well as the low points of their experiences. The memories and lessons learned by participation in athletics carry over the years, the comradeship with teammates and shared sweat, joy, and tears spans the decades, and the ability to pass on knowledge to younger generations of athletes is a blessing. Those of you who recall those days of youth and exuberance, the thrill of the competition, and the pride of representing not only your school but your community know what I mean. Besides, we all have gotten better as the years pass by and the tales get taller!! Until next time, stay healthy and active!!
Dr. Alex Warner is a contributing columnist for the Daily Advocate