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Perkins grabs OAC award

Toronto head baseball coach Brian Perkins (right) accepts the OVAC Bill Van Horne Coach of the Year plaque from OVAC executive director Dirk DeCoy. Perkins guided the Red Knights to the Division IV state baseball championship and the Eastern Ohio Athletic Conference title in 2019. (Special to the Journal/Seth Staskey)

TORONTO — Brian Perkins etched his name into illustrious company last June when he led the Toronto baseball team to the Division IV state baseball championship.

Thursday evening, he joined another illustrious club.

Perkins, a 1989 graduate of East Liverpool High School, was announced as the 2020 winner of the Ohio Valley Athletic Conference Bill Van Horne Coach of the Year during the conference’s virtual Banquet of Champions.

While formally accepting the plaque from OVAC executive director Dirk DeCoy, Perkins did so on behalf of the entire program, school and community.

“If it wasn’t for our players, coaches, support of the administration at Toronto City Schools and the community, I wouldn’t be standing here,” Perkins said. “I accept this on behalf of all of them. What an honor! I really appreciate it.”

Perkins joins Rich Wilinski, who was the 1975 winner, as the only Toronto head coaches to receive the award and becomes just the fourth baseball coach in OVAC history to receive the accolade. He’s the first since Harrison Central’s Justin Clifford in 2014.

The state championship was the first for Toronto since 1998. Now, almost a full year removed from receiving the trophy, Perkins called it a “unique” year.

Much of that stems from the fact that the Red Knights will have to wait until 2021 to get a chance to defend their title after this year’s season was canceled due to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.

“We’ve had a lot of great memories to look back on,” Perkins said. “It was a special group of players and coaches that made this quite a memory for us.”

The Red Knights, who finished 28-5 last season climbed to the top of the state’s baseball mountain by virtue of a 3-1 victory against Hillsdale in the state championship game. That came a day after they blanked Antwerp, 8-0, in the state semifinals.

Impressive wins over Strasburg (district championship), Chillicothe Huntington (regional semifinal) and Newark Catholic (regional championship) earned Toronto the right to play at Akron’s Canal Park.

Toronto also claimed its ninth OVAC title with a 4-0 victory over Wheeling Central. The championship is the sixth under Perkins’ watch.

With their rings officially received during a banquet in late fall and now this award, Perkins officially sets his sights on the 2021 campaign.

“I told the guys that after Christmas break (2019), we were focusing on 2020 and what we accomplished in 2019 was in the past,” Perkins said. “Unfortunately, the COVID-19 happened and now we’ll officially close it and begin working on 2021.”

In his 16 seasons at the helm, Perkins has amassed a 329-86-1 record. He also led the Red Knights to the state semifinals in 2017 and won Eastern Ohio Athletic Conference titles in 2018 and 2019.

Perkins also pointed out the support of his family, including wife Jamie, son Zach (19) and daughter, Camryn (13).

Other finalists for the award were Oak Glen football coach Ted Arneault Jr., Oak Glen volleyball coach Morgan Poling, Meadowbrook boys basketball coach Lou “Scooter” Tolzda and Fort Frye girls basketball coach Dan Liedtke.

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