WEST ALEXANDRIA — Most spring sports would have wrapped up by this point, but this year, they were never able to get off the ground.
COVID-19 forced the cancellation of all spring sports by the OHSAA on April 20, even as some teams were practicing and preparing for their upcoming seasons, so many coaches and players have now been left with questions about what could have been during the 2020 spring sports season.
With five county schools and numerous spring sports programs, dozens of players saw their high school athletic careers come to an unceremonious end.
Twin Valley South then-AD Tony Ausperger said in April it had been a tough time for teachers, students, athletes, coaches and administrators.
“Obviously, a very strange time and one that personally I’ve hated from the standpoint that I know it’s my last stretch of time at Twin Valley South and not at all like I wanted to have it end,” Ausperger said. “I feel particularly bad for all of the high school seniors who are missing out on all of the fun and exciting stuff that the end of senior year entails for them.”
Twin Valley South baseball coach Cory Bassler said back in April it hadn’t even sunk in yet that there wouldn’t be a baseball season.
“Once I come to terms with it, it’s going to be a hard pill to swallow. It’s not just about the games; it’s about the camaraderie of all of the guys and the chance to go out and compete with your brothers, both literally and figuratively,” Bassler said. “It’s about making memories and building relationships that last well beyond the playing field. I am sad for my guys that they lost the opportunity to go out and play a game that they love; however, I am even more sad that they are missing out on everything that comes with being a part of a team and the brotherhood that comes with it.”
As for what he was looking forward to during the season, Bassler said that he felt good about the guys returning as well as the guys stepping in this year.
“We returned our top two pitchers last year in innings pitched, so we had a ton of valuable experience returning to the mound this year. We also added a couple young guys who I feel can really help us on the mound as well. Defensively, I felt we were good to solid at every position, though I knew we were going to be inexperienced at a few spots and there might be a few growing pains early in the season. At the plate, it remains to be seen how we would have stepped up and replaced our 1-6 hitters that all graduated last year. However, I did have faith that we had guys that were ready to step up.”
Bassler had positive things to say and was looking forward to watching seniors Gabe Worley, Tyler Miller, Logan Ulrich, Branden Perry and Kyler Maggard play this season.
“Gabe was the vocal leader of our team, and it would have been his second year on varsity. Led team in innings pitched last year and was going to be our starting third baseman this year when he wasn’t pitching…Tyler was our starting center fielder and leadoff hitter. He was a very good contact hitter and was second on our team in on-base percentage last year while leading our team in walks…Logan was a starting outfielder for us and did a good job of tracking down fly balls,” Bassler said. “Logan really started to come on strong for us towards the end of the season last year and he was a guy that we were counting on to really step up at the plate and help replace some of the lost production from last year…Branden has thrown a ton of innings for us over the past couple years and we were excited to see him take another step forward for us this year. Branden has also shown some signs at the plate and does a good job of fielding it at first base when he isn’t pitching…Kyler was going to get some innings at first base for us this year, as well as some opportunities as a designated hitter. Kyler also could give us some innings on the mound, and we were excited to see what Kyler had to offer us this year.”
Twin Valley South boys’ track coach Richard Faber said it was disappointing to get the news of spring sports being canceled.
“Track season is something I have always looked forward to having, especially after surviving the winter months,” Faber said. “I have been fortunate to be a part of a lot of successful track seasons at Twin Valley South and I think we were positioned to have another good year. I am especially disappointed for the senior class.”
Faber had high expectations for this season, believing they would have been in contention for another CCC title and a district title.
“We had a nice mix of veterans that would have contributed much to the team in performance and leadership that would help our younger athletes to grow and understand what it means to be a part of the track team at South,” Faber said. “We also had some rookies and younger athletes that were showing some promise before the shutdown. I think we would have been our normal competitive team to watch out for.”
With several seniors set to compete in the spring, Faber said he was excited about what they would have brought to the table.
“Kyle Saul was a returning state qualifier in the 800 and had participated in the Indoor State Meet in the pole vault this past March…Chris Keener also has State Meet experience…Logan White has been a good performer throughout, and has been on the Regional podium with a 4×200 relay team…Dillon Howard was recovering from surgery. If he had fully recovered, I think he could have made it back to the Regional Meet and hopefully could have at least snagged a place in the shot put at the Region…Aaron Clark had a good junior year to kick off his track career…Ben Combs just missed qualifying to the Region in the shot put last year. He stepped up big in the shot put at the end of last year and was already consistently throwing at his best from a year ago…Austin Winhoven returned after a couple years away from track. He was looking a lot faster than any year prior to this…Ryan DeLong and William Wathen were my two rookies….I definitely had a lot to look forward to from my guys and from our three senior girls Alexis Bennett, Maggie Johnson and Zoe Utsinger, and I am disappointed for them that they didn’t get the opportunity to create more good experiences to enjoy and remember.”
Twin Valley South softball coach Ashlee Douglas said she was sad for athletes who lost their spring season and especially for the seniors who lost their last opportunity to play.
“I was looking forward to having several returning players this season, and we were looking like we were going to have a strong defense with senior Kobee Zinn on the mound,” Douglas said. “Our team had a large focus on hitting during our preseason, and we had players that were making some great strides in practice working up to our shut down date.”
Reach Braden Moles at 937-683-4061 or on Twitter @BradenMoles