What could have been, might have been, even should have been never had a chance of being as Ft. Recovery’s hopes for a second chance went awry.
Columbus – You could have cut the gloom with a knife.
Disappointment, frustration, even some anger on the faces of the Ft. Recovery Indians in the wake of Friday’s 7-3 loss to Newark Catholic in the Division IV semi-finals at Huntington Park.
As Jacob Homan’s fly ball was caught by the center fielder for the final out, the hopes of a season, the hopes of a second chance for a state title in baseball, came up empty. The was a chill of unfulfillment not unlike the winter winds that blow in Feburary down Neil Avenue outside the ballpark.
They knew, to a man, that they had it within their grasp – that opportunity to atone for last year’s loss in this same game to this same team, a team that has won the title in Division IV…eight times!
They jumped out to an early 2-0 lead as Newark didn’t pitch, hit, or field like a state champion, just a team feeling its way along.
But that 2-0 lead evaporated in the top of the third inning. Mistakes, the bane of last year’s loss, reared their ugly head again, and at about the same point as in last year’s game.
Sophomore pitcher Nick Thwaits left too many fastballs up in the zone, failing to locate as he’d done throughout the season in quality starts against the likes of Minster and St. Henry.
Catcher Chase Bruns had a pair of passed balls in the third, an inning that saw Newark take a 3-2 lead without benefit of an earned run.
Shortstop Jacob Homan and second baseman Cade Wendel failed to connect on a sure double play in that same inning, opening the door for Newark to extend the inning and score those three runs.
Base running errors in the bottom of the inning, as Jackson Hobbs perhaps attempted to challenge fate, and was thrown out at home attempting to score from third on an overthrow.
The official scorer was kind. Only three physical errors were charged for the game…because mental errors and errors of omission don’t count in baseball. Eventually, only one of Newark’s runs were recorded as being of the earned variety.
Jerry Kaup, as always, was gracious, classy, even in light of such a discouraging defeat. Afterwards, surrounded by a gaggle of reporters he patiently explained, expressing as their representative the obviously disappointment of his players.
“We made mistakes,” he opined. “No excuses. The stage was not too big. We’d been here before. We’d played in other big games in our league, in the sectional, district, and regional round of the tournament. We got a little rattled a couple of times. We had a couple of guys who possibly tried to do more than they could.
“We probably tried to play too fast a couple of times…the ball at second base on the double play. Jacob might have tried to get rid of it to first base too quickly. Yes, we tried to play too quickly and it cost us. We tried to do too much. We wanted it too badly. We got out of the moment instead of just playing and doing what we’re capable of doing. We knew we could do it. We just tried to do too much and it cost us.”
His players waited patiently for him in a hallway under Huntington Park. Some stood, some sat slumped against the wall. And some leaned, eyes closed, shaking their heads. Kaup took the time to thank, encourage, and remind them that they had, indeed, had a successful season.
“It’s not easy to get this far,” he had said outside to reporters.
He repeated those words inside to empty stares and blank expressions. They knew. It is hard to get that far…but even harder to see it slip away when you don’t play the way you played to there.
“We can get here again,” said Kaup. “We have to go home now and start all over. But we can get here again. We can get here every year if we just play like we can play, and not the way we played today.”
He talked briefly about life lessons.
He thanked his seniors for their leadership, while urging a talented group of sophomores to commit themselves to continue to work in their likeness.
Jackson Hobbs, the ultimate leader, had nothing to say has he walked up the ramp to the elevator and out of the stadium. His last day had been anything but fulfilling…happy.
Nick Thwaits, the talented sophomore, was equally subdued, knowing that a better performance would have gone a long way on this day. But baseball doesn’t work that way.
It’s a game played by boys, and men, who ironically make the same mistakes at every level, high school to the major leagues. It’s impossible to determine why, and when. It’s just baseball.
“They’ll bounce back,” said Kaup. “Right now they’re disappointed. They know. They not only wanted to get back here, but they wanted to win. This is really tough.”
Ever the coach, he gathered his gear and welcomed any and all that wanted to join him to watch a few innings of the succeeding game between Triad and Cuyahoga Heights.
“We may try to schedule them (Triad) in the future. They’re not too far from us,” said Kaup to his troops, his message as obvious as life itself.
Life, like baseball, moves on. With, or without, mistakes!