Upper Arlington High School baseball coach Sam Clark maintained short-term and long-term perspective in the moments after the Golden Bears' best season in a decade came to an end.
UA's bid for its first Division I state tournament berth since 1990 ended with a 5-3 loss to Hilliard Darby in a regional final May 31 at Dublin Coffman. The Bears were coming off their first district championship since 2010, and Clark -- who concluded his first season as UA coach -- was a senior on that team.
"When I was a player and was able to do this with my teammates, I understand how special that was and how special it is. That was nine years ago and it feels like yesterday. It always will," said Clark, whose team finished 21-10 overall. "We did a lot of things that a lot of teams in Upper Arlington history haven't done. We won the (OCC-Central Division title), we won a district title and got to this game. There are only five teams in our history that have gotten here. I am so happy for the seniors that they had this opportunity together. That will never go away."
After upsetting fourth-ranked New Albany 5-2 in a regional semifinal May 30 at Coffman, UA took a 1-0 lead in the first inning against Darby on singles by seniors Ben Krimm (P/OF) and Sammy Sass (C) and an error. The Panthers scored three runs in the second to pull ahead for good and added two runs in the fifth to earn their first regional title.
Darby scored all of its runs with two outs.
Seniors Tommy Dilz (1B) and Andrew Whetsell (SS) each went 2-for-3 against the Panthers. Krimm started on the mound and took the loss, allowing three runs on four hits and two walks with three strikeouts in three innings.
Sass, a Wright State recruit who was named first-team all-league and second-team all-district, was 4-for-4 with two RBI against New Albany. Senior pitcher Charlie Fleming earned a complete-game win, striking out seven and allowing four hits to outduel Purdue commit Jack Sokol, who had been 18-0 the last two seasons.
"I really utilized my curveball (against New Albany) and fastball outside. We threw some first-pitch outside fastballs and they chased those and hit some weak ground balls," Fleming said after the semifinal.
This year's senior class went 76-40, winning 21 games each of the last two seasons and going 13-2 in the OCC-Central this year to win the league by four games ahead of runners-up Coffman and Marysville (both 9-6).
Dilz, a Bellarmine recruit, was named league Player of the Year and second-team all-district and Fleming, who will play at Denison, was first-team all-league and all-district.
Junior Matthew Green (OF) and Krimm, a Pennsylvania football recruit, were second-team all-league, junior Jacob Leve (INF) was special mention all-league and senior Ethan Hammerberg (P) and Whetsell were honorable mention all-league.
Hammerberg is an Ohio State recruit.
Green was second-team all-district and Krimm was honorable mention all-district.
"We've talked from the get-go that our goal was to win a district title and (be one of) the final 16 teams in the state. When you get this far, it's a whole new season," Clark said. "We took a few days to celebrate the district championship and then got ready to work. We had a good plan in place and the guys stuck to it. We just put them in situations to be successful and it's their job to step up."
Track season ends at state meet
Senior Heidi Heuerman of the girls track and field team ended her high school career standing on the podium in the Division I state meet for the first time.
The Wisconsin recruit finished seventh in the 3,200 meters (10 minutes, 48.74 seconds) on June 1 at Ohio State, 2.82 seconds faster than in the regional meet eight days earlier at Pickerington North and more than 30 seconds better than last year at state, when she finished 15th as UA's first girls representative in the meet since 2015.
Heuerman earned UA two points and a tie for 53rd behind champion Liberty Township Lakota East (65) as 68 teams scored.
UA's other state qualifier, junior Sean McRae of the boys team, finished 15th in the shot put (51 feet, 4 inches) in his first state appearance.
McRae is one of several key contributors eligible to return for the boys, along with juniors Mason McHugh (pole vault), Isaac Perry (hurdles) and Chris Schweisthal (sprints) and sophomore Charlie Nowinski (distance). McHugh was OCC-Central champion in the pole vault and Perry qualified for regional in both the 110 hurdles and 300 hurdles. He placed third at district in both events.
Top girls athletes expected back are juniors Cassidy Baran (sprints), Sonia Mustric (hurdles, sprints), Abbie Sells (sprints) and Adrienne Wachtman (throws) and sophomore Adiah Bonham (sprints).
Boys lacrosse team falls in semifinal
Saluting his team for persevering through a tough schedule and lack of a true home field this season, boys lacrosse coach Kyle Olson nonetheless felt the year ultimately ended in disappointment after UA fell to Cincinnati St. Xavier 9-8 in overtime in a Division I state semifinal May 28 at Centerville.
St. Xavier's Noah Reidy scored 1:16 into overtime, taking an assist from Andrew Green and firing into the net past Bears senior goalkeeper Drew Hellstedt.
UA, which also had lost to St. Xavier 7-6 on May 10 in the Midwest Scholastic Lacrosse Coaches Association tournament at Fortress Obetz, outshot St. Xavier 30-17 and twice came from behind in the fourth quarter to tie the game.
"I don't know if it was an off night or what. We played hard and guys stepped up at key times, but again, our season ended too soon," Olson said. "We didn't play as well (May 10). We didn't have nearly as many shots. To put up 30 shots on a pretty tight defense was much better. We accomplished a lot of what we wanted to do except for the result."
UA trailed 6-4 to start the fourth quarter and 8-7 in the final three minutes before senior attacker Anthony Pardi tied it with 46.3 seconds left off an assist from senior attacker Jack Mason. Pardi had three goals to lead the Bears, who finished 17-6 overall and had been seeking their first state final appearance since winning their most recent championship in 2016.
Senior attacker A.J. Achatz had 35 goals to lead a balanced scoring output. Pardi finished with 31 goals, senior midfielder Nathan Junk and Mason each added 30 and senior midfielder Sam Campbell scored 28.
UA went 6-1 in the OCC-Central to finish second behind Coffman (7-0).
Campbell, Hellstedt, Mason and seniors Sean Byrne (defender) and Michael Kern (defender) were named first-team all-league. Achatz, Junk and senior Pierce Showe (defender) were second-team all-league and sophomore Shea Keethler (midfielder/faceoff specialist) was honorable mention all-league.
Byrne, Campbell, Hellstedt, Kern and Mason were first-team all-region and Mason was named region Attacker of the Year as well as All-American. Achatz, Junk and Showe were second-team all-region and Pardi and senior Joe Winslow (defender) were named honorable mention all-region.
Campbell and Mason were named first-team all-state, Byrne and Kern were third-team all-state and Hellstedt was honorable mention all-state.
The Bears played their home games at Wellington because of construction at Marv Moorehead Stadium. Although they are losing 17 seniors, a handful of contributors are expected to return, including junior Garrett Jepson (goalie), sophomores Garrett Junk (attacker) and Mac Scholl (goalie) and freshman Leo Caine (attacker).
"I'm extremely proud of them. To go through what they went through this year with trips to Indiana, Kentucky and Pennsylvania, not having a home stadium, and to fight like this and make it here, being a goal away from the state final, they carried this program," Olson said.
"There were a lot of challenges, but we met them all head-on."