A trio of teams were able to repeat as champions Saturday as the newly named Ohio Valley Athletic Conference Tom Bechtel Softball Championships were held at the spacious J.B. Chambers I-470 Complex in the Elm Grove section of Wheeling.
St. John Central (1A), Steubenville Catholic (3A) and John Marshall (5A) were able to retain their crowns, while Steubenville (4A) became a first-time titlist and Wheeling Central (2A) got back on top for the 12th. The Irish and Monarchs three-peated.
For those keeping track, in this space last week I boldly made some pre-tournament picks. Of the five, I correctly predicted three of them. The only wrong picks came in 2A and 4A.
The Irish captured their 10th small-school title with a 5-1 triumph over Paden City as senior Hannah Absalom became a three-time champion. She not only did the job inside the circle, but also slugged her sixth home run of the season.
The Crusaders shut out Bellaire for their championship. They defeated Wheeling Central for the 2A title in 2013. The loss marked the second consecutive championship game that the Big Reds have failed to score.
The Monarchs kept Jefferson County schools from claiming three titles when they knocked off top-seeded Indian Creek.
Congratulations go out to the Irish, Maroon Knights, Crusaders, Big Red and Monarchs for jobs well done.
A pair of OVAC Tom Bechtel titlists will collide today, weather permitting, when St. John Central welcomes Steubenville to Amanda's Field in downtown Bellaire. The first pitch is set for 5. The Irish won the first meeting in Steubenville.
I'd be remiss if I didn't give a shout out to Paden City (1A), Shadyside (2A), Bellaire (3A), Harrison Central (4A) and Indian Creek (5A) for earning berths in the finals.
Long Overdue Honor
Tom "Bear" Bechtel was honored for his long-time service to Ohio Valley softball. The tournament was named for him.
I've known Tom for quite a few years, and if anyone is deserving of a softball tournament being named in their honor, it's him.
Of course, for those of you who know him, he deflected all the attention and accolades, as he always does, to the girls and teams.
Kudos to Grounds
Crew and Umpires
With all the rain that Mother Nature deposited on the picturesque complex early last week, Bechtel and his crew, along with many volunteers, had Ben's Field and Lisa's Field, in top-notch shape for Thursday and Friday's semifinals, along with the championship games. All told, 15 games were contested in the three days.
With all the postponements and juggling of games, especially on Saturday, due to proms (5 of them), the umpiring crew, which has too many to name, never missed a beat, maybe a call or two, according to some rabid fans, during the three days.
Great job guys!
With the OVACs over, it's time for area baseball and softball teams to turn their attention to another of their goals, the post-season.
Coaches from both Ohio and West Virginia met Sunday for sectional tournament draws on their respective sides of the Ohio River.
The most interesting tourney could unfold in Shadyside at the Mead Township Park in Division IV softball. The 8-team field includes OVAC champions St. John Central and Steubenville Catholic, along with runnerup Shadyside. Also entered are semifinalists River and Bridgeport. Other schools involved include Beallsville, Frontier and Toronto. Only two teams advance to district tournament action in New Philadelphia.
Action gets under way Saturday with four games. It will continue through the co-sectional finals on Tuesday, May 13.
I don't want to overlook Division III where Barnesville, Bellaire, Harrison Central, Martins Ferry, Monroe Central, St. Clairsville and Union Local top the entrants that will compete at the St. Clairsville Jr. Sports Complex.
In Division II at State Lake Park in Richmond, Buckeye Local is among the entrants. The Panthers are paired with Steubenville in the first round. Other schools include Beaver Local, Edison and Indian Creek.
Steubenville's extra-inning victory over Martins Ferry in the 4A championship game gave the storied program its 20th conference championship on the diamond.
Bellaire (3A) and Shadyside (2A) also reached the finals in their respective divisions, but were handed setbacks by Linsly and Caldwell, respectively. The other champion was Wheeling Park (5A), which knocked off top-seeded Edison.
I'm in favor of showing off some of the premier baseball diamonds in the Ohio Valley. I've been to Vaccaro Field in Steubenville countless times, and I've also been to the Red Knights Complex in Toronto. They are both very nice facilities, but why should southern teams have to continually travel up north.
However, there are a few other diamonds around the OV that are capable of holding such games. Just a few that come to mind include the newly renovated Wheeling Park facility; Niekro Diamond in Brookside (which has hosted championship games in the past); Mazeroski Field in Connorville; Monarch Field in Glen Dale; Memorial Park in St. Clairsville; and Mullett Field in New Martinsville (ditto Brookside).
I'm sure Bellaire vs. Linsly and Caldwell vs. Shadyside would have drawn bigger crowds closer to home. The Edison-Wheeling Park game would've been a perfect fit for Buckeye Local's diamond.
I know there is a lot that goes into where the games are played, but all of the above facilities are capable of handling the seating, parking, concessions and everything else that goes into hosting the tournament games.
Remember, these are just my thoughts!
See you at a diamond somewhere this week.
North can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org