Sonny Fulks
Sonny Fulks
Managing Editor

Sonny Fulks is a graduate of Ohio State University where he pitched four varsity seasons for the Buckeyes from 1971 through 1974. He furthered his baseball experience as a minor league umpire for seven seasons, working for the Florida State League (A), the Southern League (AA), and the American Association (AAA). He has written for numerous websites, and for the past fourteen years has served as columnist and photo editor for The Gettysburg Magazine, published by the University of Nebraska Press, in Lincoln Nebraska. His interests include history, support for amateur baseball, the outdoors, and he has a music degree from Ohio State University.


Our year in review is frankly too broad to write about it all. But it’s bound to make you smile, and you may be surprised at what we consider the most memorable moments of a profitable (memory-wise) 2016.

My friend and writing colleague Greg Hoard frequently advises against columns like this…”the best of”…because you invariably leave out someone’s highlight.

“And then you look like a hick from southern Indiana,” he muses. Hoard, by the way, is from…southern Indiana.

But we take the risk, anyway, because for our part it brings back a lot of great memories of the the past year. Competitive moments, and moments that you know were “firsts”, as well as “lasts”, and worthy of being distinguished one more time.

So we go about it a bit differently. Yeah, we pick out some championships, sure, but we also make it a point of writing about formative events, too – the year that someone turned it around, a promising beginning for even better things in the future.

Of course, we’re going to miss some. But we hope you get a smile, and we get a nod, over the following moments we were privileged to witness first-hand.

In no particular order:

The Jackson Center Tigers sending both boys and girls basketball teams to the state final four.

SosbysRaiders_thumb0225But more, it’s the manner in which they got there that we remember even more. The boys went through the gauntlet of nail-biting teams in the district and regional rounds…46-43 over Cincinnati Christian, 39-32 over Southeastern, and 46-39 over Yellow Springs.

The Jackson Center girls fought and scrapped their way all the way to the 2016 state Final Four.

The Jackson Center girls fought and scrapped their way all the way to the 2016 state Final Four.

And the girls…who got there by beating league rival Ft. Loramie in the regionals, in one of the great defensive performances on record. You can’t lose if the other team can’t score, and JC simply wouldn’t allow the Redskins to score.

This is one of those cases where neither were able to cash in once they got to the finals at Value City Arena, but the shortened destination hardly detracted from the journey itself. We all remember…just so you know.

There were a lot of great baseball moments last spring: St. Henry pitcher Mitch Stammen’s perfect game, and of course, Lehman’s annual trip to the regional round of the tournament.

But 2016 also marked the Versailles Tigers triumph in the regional round of the tournament to earn their way to Columbus for the first time in nearly a generation. Like Jackson Center in basketball, the Tigers fell to an outstanding team, Berlin Hilan, and one of the great pitching performances of the year. But what’s remembered is…how quickly that game went by because of the pitching. Joe Neves and I did the game play-by-play on the OHSAA radio network, and it was over before we could get all the ads on air between innings.

Best, there’s a lot of talent coming back this spring in Versailles, and it’s anticipated that the Tigers will make another, more successful run.

Kaup_thumb0322You can’t mention baseball and Versailles, without writing about Jerry Kaup and his Ft. Recovery Indians, making their second trip to the Final Four in as many years. And frustrated again, they lost to the same Newark Catholic team. But they like their baseball in Ft. Recovery, and there were a lot of great memories because of performances from pitchers Jackson Hobbs and Nick Thwaits. And a hundred other teams in their division…who never go the chance.

For our part, you can’t talk baseball without over coverage of the Ohio State Buckeyes and their surprising in the 2016 Big Ten Tournament played in Omaha. Entering the tournament as the number #2 seed, the Buckeyes fought rain for the first two days…and had to win an improbable four games in the span of 24 hours, beating Michigan twice, to ultimately win the championship.

Left fielder Ronnie Dawson was the hitting star of the tournament, batting .512 and his memorable home run against Michigan State in the semi-final round was one of the great Ohio State baseball memories in the past 50 years. A week later was was the #2 choice of the Houston Astros in the major league draft, one of six Buckeyes to sign and play professionally last summer.

hoying_thumb20823And, we’d be remiss if we didn’t mention that after five years of hard work and commitment in the minor leagues, Ft. Loramie’s Jared Hoying finally realized his baseball dream when he got his call to the major leagues by the Texas Rangers during the summer of 2016.  It’s impossible to understand and appreciate if you’re not a baseball player, but getting to the big leagues is one of sports greatest milestones, because less than 1 in 5,000 who start out in Little League baseball ever make it to the game’s ultimate level.

Our market is so dominated by football interest that you could write a book each year about best games, best moments, and the championships won by teams from the MAC. And congratulations again in 2016 to the Marion Local Flyers who atoned for last year’s disappointing finish by returning to Columbus and knocking off Cuyahoga Heights to claim their ninth title since 2000, all under head coach Tim Goodwin.

But the MAC almost pulled of the miracle of 2014 again by sending the same three teams in the same three divisions back to Columbus.

But this time Minster fell to a better team from Warren John F. Kennedy.

And Coldwater, hobbled with key injuries all over the field, came within 58 seconds of winning its fifth consecutive title in Division V. Playing Canton Central Catholic for the third consecutive year, this time the Irish finally got ‘em, 16-13.

Burgbacher_thumb08102016 also marked milestone years by the Troy Trojans, who finished the year with a 9-1 mark in Division II and earned the #1 seed in their region before losing to Miamisburg (the only team to beat them this year, and twice) in the second round of the playoffs. It’s true that the only title Troy won was the GWOC North, but in the hearts of loyal fans of the 45373 zip code, Coach Matt Burgbacher restored the pride of Trojan football, packed the Memorial Stadium stands once again, and created unprecedented anticipation for the future. For you see, the varsity Trojans were only part of the story this year. The future really looks bright with big talented classes on the way from the junior high and JV squads.

And another highlight to the 2016 football season…we wrote about it in anticipation and were there to witness the 50-50 drawing at this year’s Coldwater-Marion Local football game.

The game itself was a classic with Coldwater winning on a field goal for the second year in a row, 17-14. But the score of the game took second stage to the drawing for the money…this year, a record $14,350!

Kim Metz and Jackson Center won their second consecutive title in Div. IV volleyball.

Kim Metz and Jackson Center won their second consecutive title in Div. IV volleyball.

But there were other fall titles, as well.

In volleyball Jackson Center and Coach Kim Metz won its second consecutive title in Division IV.

And Miami East, behind all-every player Jonni Parker, won its third title in the past decade in Division III.

Now the calendar flips and we flip with it, beginning with area basketball, and soon baseball, as the whole drama of new highlights repeats itself. Our congratulations on what we saw, once again.

And once again, we can’t wait to see what’s next.

Ohio State's Ronnie Dawson stole the show, and the Buckeyes stole the title, at the 2016 Big Ten Tournament.

Ohio State’s Ronnie Dawson stole the show, and the Buckeyes stole the title, at the 2016 Big Ten Tournament.