Recent history tells us that if you can win the Division II Central District baseball championship, you have a good chance of making it all the way to the state tournament.
For six straight years, including last season when Jonathan Alder lost in the D-II state championship game, a Central District tournament champion has been a part of the D-II state final four.
Prior to the Pioneers run last year, Columbus St. Francis DeSales won back-to-back state championships in 2011 and 2012. Jonathan Alder claimed the 2010 state crown and in 2008 and 2009 Canal Winchester made the state semifinals, finishing as the runner-up one year and losing in the semifinal the other.
So when second-seeded Alder (23-4) steps onto the artificial playing surface at Lancaster’s Beavers Field tonight at 7 p.m. to face No. 3 Bexley, more than a district championship trophy is at stake, a possible state tournament run is also in play.
The Pioneers and coach Craig Kyle are after their fifth straight district crown and he said that achievement is always the goal first and foremost for his team.
“It’s all about a process,” Kyle said. “It’s been a process ever since the state finals last year. We’ve talked, our goal is to win the Central District, whatever happens after that happens.
“We don’t talk state finals. We don’t talk about state tournament. We concentrate on the Central District because if we can win that then we can compete at the state level, we’ve shown that and so has Central Ohio. (The district championship) that means everything for us. We have had our eyes on that the whole time.”
The Pioneers district championship opponent Bexley (21-7) comes into the game following a 6-2 victory over Licking Valley in the district semifinal on Tuesday, May 20. The Lions are looking for their first district championship since 1998 and are making a district championship game appearance this season after losing in the district semifinals four straight years.
The two title game opponents have played a number of games against common opponents, Alder topped London (3-2), Grandview (18-2) and DeSales (8-3), while Bexley swept London (4-2, 2-1) and Grandview (15-1. 11-1) but lost to DeSales (10-5).
The Alder-Bexley winner will advance to a D-II regional semifinal on Thursday, May 29, at Wright State University against the winner of the Mason 3 district. The D-II regional final will be played at the same site on Friday, May 30.
There’s a strong chance that experience could play a major role in how things ultimately turn out in the district final.
“Experience helps, we have a lot of guys back from last year who have played in big games and know what it takes to win,” Alder shortstop Luke Nees said.
“A lot of our guys are experienced in big games and you can’t coach that, either you have it or you don’t and our guys have it,” Kyle said. “You hope your big time players step up in big time games.”
Chris Miles can be reached at (740) 852-1616, ext. 18 or via Twitter @MadPressSports.