Looking back at the now concluded sports year, here’s a list of some of our favorite events covered in 2023, and in some cases a possible tease for more to come in 2024. Whether then, or yet to come…enjoy it!
Without a doubt, no one ever agrees on topics like coach of the year, or all-star teams, or even in this case…the top events of the year that were covered on the pages of Press Pros.
So, the best we can do is look back and tell you why they were special to us – fun, challenging, and in the end…memorable for the individuals and personalities we observed in the heat of the moment. Someone mentioned during the just-completed state football tournament, “You could probably write a book on Marion Local, alone.” I’m sure that’s true, and someone might. But in this case, a mere chapter will have to do.
But from the beginning….our best, most read, most memorable, favorite (or whatever you prefer) sports stories for 2023…and holiday wishes from Press Pros!
When you write as much high school as we do, it’s true that a lot of our inspiration for the best stories revolve around firsts for area schools and athletes. In this case, we remember the Tri-Village Patriot girls winning their first Division IV title in basketball last spring, 52-50, over Toledo Christian. It’s no surprise that Rylee Sagester led the Patriots with 20 points, nor was a surprise that teammates Morgan Hunt and Tori Richards chipped in to scored another 20. What was surprising was the unexpected game of her life from Kynnedi Hager, who scored 10 to provide the kind of support that provides the difference in winning on the biggest stage…and finally breaking through after so many years of frustration and coming ‘close’ for coach Brad Gray.
We were there, along with everyone else from New Madison to see it, and it proudly heads our list of top stories in 2023. But it was just the beginning.
It didn’t result in a state title, but the remarkable run of St. Henry in Division IV baseball in 2023 did result in one of the best individual pitching performances in recent years…junior Devin Delzeith pitching the Redskins to the Division IV state tournament with an 8-5 decision in the regional final game over Delphos St. John. Statistically, it wasn’t Delzeith’s best game of the year, but it was memorable for the fact that it put the Redskins back in the Final Four for the first time since 2003, when they won the third of their three state titles in baseball. Ironically, when they got there they had to face another local team, Russia, seeking to repeat as the Division IV champion (2022). In a remarkable finish, Russia outlasted Delzeith and the Redskins, 1-0, in eight innings in the semi-final game. It would be Delzeith’s only loss of the year (11-1). Unfortunately for Russia, they did not repeat as champs, losing to Berlin Hiland in the Div. IV title game, 14-4.
By the way, with a lot of returning talent, it was probably not the last you’ll hear of St. Henry baseball…and Devin Delzeith!
Speaking of Russia, we were privileged to witness largely the same group of athletes just three months prior in boys basketball, amassing a 21-4 record for the season, and making their first trip to the state Final Four in basketball since 2002. Spencer Cordonnier’s Raiders swept through the sectional, district, and regional round of the tournament, only to come up against Richmond Heights in the Division IV semi-final matchup at UD Arena. Richmond Heights was bigger, and deeper off the bench, and ended Russia’s run a game short of the title, 66-51. The game was actually much closer than that until the waning moments of the fourth quarter, but Richmond Heights proved their dominance two days later by blowing out Convoy Crestview, 70-26, with a 40-point run in the second half in which they never substituted.
Back to baseball, 2023 marked a change in leadership with the Ohio State Buckeyes, and in Bill Mosiello’s first game as coach we witnessed Buckeye lefthander Isaiah Coupet’s finest moment of the 2023 season in the season opener…a 3-0 win over UCONN, in Port Charlotte, Florida. Sports is known for its ironies, and Coupet, on that night, would pitch 6 innings of 1-hit baseball against a team that finished the 2022 season with a record of 50-16 and gain a berth in the NCAA regional tournament. Just three weeks later, Coupet would injure a hamstring and miss the next two months of the season before returning in May. He did, however, finish the year with a 4-3 record, a 3.55 ERA, and was taken in the 4th round of the MLB draft (by the Colorado Rockies) in July.
In volleyball, three MAC teams gave us all plenty to follow and remember, as Versailles, Coldwater and St. Henry both advanced to the regional round in Div. III, but St. Henry went a step further, to the OHSAA Final Four, where it ultimately fell to state champion Mentor Lake Catholic, in three sets.
New Bremen, however, advanced through the Final Four in Division IV, taking the Division IV title in a four-set win (25-22, 26-28, 25-22, and 25-16) over Tiffin Calvert. It marked the Cardinals fourth title in six years under coach Diana Kramer, and ironically, against the only team to ever beat New Bremen in the Final Four – Tiffin Calvert.
With a lot of talent returning in 2024, guess which four teams we’re likely to be writing about again. That’s right…New Bremen, St. Henry, Coldwater, and Versailles.
We are, it seems, football crazy in the Press Pros market, and the Versailles Tigers gave us plenty to remember in 2023 with their second trip to the OHSAA tournament in three years, where they fell to Kirtland – the same team they beat in 2021 to capture their first state title since 2003 – in the Division VI title game, 32-15.
But once again, Marion Local took things a step further with a more-than-convincing win in the Division VII title game, a 38-0 decision over Dalton High School to win their 14th state title in football in 17 appearances in the title game. It also marked the Flyers’ 48th consecutive win, their third consecutive undefeated season of 16-0, and established the current mark of being the longest win streak, nationally, in high school football. We will remember senior Kyle Otte finishing his Marion career with 122 all-purpose yards and a pair of touchdowns.
To be honest, it was tough to narrow it down – so many great stories throughout the year – to just six. Which is why there’s an archive on Press Pros. You can go back and read them all if you have the time. But for our purpose here, we didn’t have the space. With best wishes for many more in 2024, we hope you have a memorable holiday season, as well.