The Ohio High School Athletic Association State Baseball Tournament opens today at Huntington Park in Columbus.
As one area team, Harrison Central, prepares to take the field this afternoon at 4 in the Division II state semifinals, another Ohio Valley community is celebrating its state championship's golden anniversary.
It was 50 years ago, in 1963, that Powhatan High School's Indians hoisted the Class A state championship trophy into the air, capping a 14-3 season.
"It's amazing that's been 50 years already," said Terry Snively, who was just a freshman on that team, but played a key role.
While the regular season was much shorter than it is now, the Ohio tournament trail was just as demanding and the ability to call themselves state champions is a feeling that's not changed.
Powhatan had to win seven games to get to the state tournament. It knocked off Flushing (12-0), Adena (6-4), Skyvue (8-0), Dillonvale (3-1) to get to the district final.
The Indians won a shootout against Midvale, 20-11, to get to the regional tournament.
In the regional, Powhatan knocked off Lorain St. Mary's, 3-1, and then had no trouble with Springfield Local, posting an 11-1 victory in the regional final.
As you'd expect, the state semifinals were an acid test as the Indians came up against Spencerville.
Ben Wiley, who was a multi-sport standout at Powhatan before going on to Gannon University, actually stole home with the game-winning run.
According to Snively, head coach Frank Bland called for a squeeze play, but the Powhatan batter was unable to get the bunt down. Wiley acted as if he was heading back to third and once the Spencerville pitcher took his eyes off him, he immediately broke for home with the game-winning run giving Powhatan a 2-1 win.
The next day, Powhatan met Dublin. Yes, that Dublin. The growing city in suburban Columbus that is now home to multiple Division I schools played in Class A in 1963.
Powhatan got a solo home run from Larry Boron and a two-run single from Rich Vallelonga and that proved to be plenty for Jimmy Volpe, who is now deceased, to earn the pitching win.
"That field we played on didn't have a fence and Larry hit that ball forever," Snively recalled. "It rolled so far that the outfielders hadn't even reached the ball when he was crossing home."
While Volpe got the win in the title game, Johnny Susack was another go-to-pitcher for the Indians on that squad.
Some of the other members of that squad included: Andrew Wiley, Eugene Burney, Dave Dierkes, Billy Boltz, Anthony Kavalieros, Paul Ingold, Jim DeLongo, Nick Blazy, Eddie Balwanz, Rick Johnson, Sam Armann and Barry Rataiczak.
The Indians didn't receive rings to commemorate their achievements as the glitz and glamour have changed significantly over the course of time.
"We all got our letters and we were happy about it," Snively joked. "We definitely don't forget it, though."
During that era of Powhatan High baseball, the Indians actually won seven consecutive district championships and got back to the state tournament in 1965, but lost in the semifinals.
The Indians didn't get out of the district the following year, losing to Bridgeport.
"That loss ended our seven-year streak, but for a school our size to go to win seven straight district championships was just unprecedented," Snively said.
That 1963 campaign was a dream season, but one that didn't come as a total major surprise to Snively.
"The majority of us were all three sport (athletes)," Snively said. "We all played Little League together. We used to sneak into the gym to play. We just loved playing sports and we were pretty good at them, too."
Lost in the shuffle of the state championship baseball campaign is the fact that Powhatan's 1962-63 basketball team finished undefeated. Wiley was actually the state's Class A player of the year that season.
Snively, who is a member of the OVAC Hall of Fame, has been paying close attention to the Huskies' run and even compared Harrison Central head coach Justin Clifford talking about all of the support they've received to the way it was that spring of 1963 in southern Belmont County.
"We would call school off or a student could bring a note and get out of school for the day to go to the game," Snively said. "I remember when we got back (to Powhatan), there were a ton of people who met us at the flagpole in Powhatan. It was a big day."
STATE BASEBALL NOTE
ANOTHER local angle back at the state baseball tournament is Spencer Iacovone and the Cincinnati Moeller Crusaders are back seeing a repeat in Division I. Spencer, who is headed to Marshall to play baseball, is the son of Dominick and Lisa Iacovone. Dominick is a graduate of Steubenville Central and Lisa is a 1981 graduate of Cadiz High School. Moeller plays on Friday at 4 p.m. against Aurora.
Staskey can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org