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Quakers want to play some more

While last week’s announcement that spring sports were officially canceled due to the coronavirus pandemic was widely expected, the news was still a gut punch to area baseball teams.

“I was incredibly disappointed,” Columbiana baseball coach Ryan Wolf said. “I had a feeling it was coming, but it still hit me pretty hard. I was really down and upset for that first day, but the next day I tried to start moving forward.”

With a talented and deep class of eight seniors, the Clippers figured to be one of the top contenders for the Eastern Ohio Athletic Conference title. Wolf spent last Tuesday sending out personalized videos to each senior telling them what they meant to him and the program.

“It was a really good class,” Wolf said. “Four of them had been with me for all four years and we had four that came back out this year. They were all-around good kids. They liked playing with each other and liked the coaching staff, we had really let them take ownership of the team.”

Columbiana senior Chase Franken, who is committed to Youngstown State, had also been bracing for the announcement.

“The sadness really hit for me last month when they closed school, it didn’t look like it was heading in a great direction then,” Franken said. “There were times over the past month where I started to feel a little optimistic, but, overall, I expected it. I feel really bad for coach Wolf, I know all the work he and the coaching staff put in to get ready for the season.”

Salem baseball coach Mike DeBarr said his group of seven seniors had shown improvement in each of their four seasons and were hoping all that hard work was going to pay off this season.

“This will always be a special group for me,” DeBarr said. “We went 4-20 in my first year before these guys came up as freshmen. They’ve done everything we’ve asked of them and have gotten better every year.

“The Eastern Buckeye Conference is a tough league, but we thought we could be in the running this year. It just sucks that these guys aren’t going to get the chance. I feel really bad for them and I feel bad for the young kids who were going to get their first varsity experience. It’s really disheartening.”

DeBarr said he spoke with a couple of players individually after the news broke and said the team planned a zoom call for this week.

“We’re going to spend some time together and discuss what we might do next.”

When school shut down in March, the Quakers planned an impromptu intra-squad scrimmage and senior night under the lights just in case the season was canceled. DeBarr said the team still hopes the they can play some kind of games whenever they are allowed to regather.

“We’ve talked about getting together and playing a game even if we have to wait until July or August,” DeBarr said. “We’ll take whoever we can get that’s available.”

Lisbon coach Doug Andric said his group also took the news really hard.

“It’s difficult to know what to say in a situation like this, everybody was pretty upset,” Andric said. “We have five seniors, they had put in a lot of extra work and were really excited to play. You just feel really bad for them because this was the last chance they were going to get to play sports in high school.”

Wolf raised the idea of playing a series of exhibition games against area teams during the summer.

“I don’t have anything definitive yet, but I would love if we are able to do something competitive this summer,” Wolf said. “We’ve polled the guys and they said they are willing to stick with baseball through the end of July, so hopefully we can put something together. I’ve got a couple of other ideas that I’m kicking around for ways we can give these guys the send-off they deserve.”

Whatever winds up taking place this summer, it won’t fully replicate the memories that have been lost for this year’s senior class.

“Baseball is the same game no matter where you play, but the people you play with change,” Franken said. “It’s just really sad that I won’t get one more year with guys that I grew up with. I was really looking forward to sharing in the ups and downs of the season with them and now I won’t get to do that.”

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