Blanchester senior Brant Bandow was quick to respond when asked what it meant to play Bethel-Tate in Thursday’s Region 12 semifinal baseball game at Xenia’s Athletes in Action Sports Complex.
“I think it shows how strong our league was this year,” he said. “A lot of times our league gets looked down upon. This year we played CNE (Clermont Northeastern) for the sectional title and now we’re playing Bethel-Tate in the regional semis.”
The SBAAC is certain to be represented by at least one baseball team in the Region 12 championship game Friday afternoon. Clinton County is hoping for a blue and white winner on Thursday.
“This is kinda cool,” said senior Christopher “Topher” Farrow. “The last two or three years, it’s been back and forth between us and Bethel. Now we’re playing for the big game.”
Blanchester and Bethel-Tate split two division games during the regular season, each winning on the other team’s home field. They also played two non-league games with Blanchester winning both but neither team used their top pitchers.
The Wildcats won the National Division championship this season.
“Us being the league champs, I feel like there’s more pressure on us,” said Dustin Howard. “Everybody’s going to expect us to win.”
Howard, however, doesn’t believe being the favorite is a bad thing. He’s ready to handle that pressure.
“Think positive,” he said. “To relieve the pressure, I just always think positive. No negative thoughts.”
It helps to have a close-knit team. You’ve heard the phrase “Check your ego at the door.” That certainly applies to the these Wildcats.
“This year, we’re one big unit,” said Jack Davidson. “Past teams, players stuck to a group. There were different groups on the team. This year, I feel like we welcomed newcomers with open arms. We share the spotlight with the younger group. That’s gotten us to where we are.”
And that was important for this team. Though the six-member senior class is the biggest on the team, there are sophomores and freshmen who are talented and played key roles in this team’s success.
Sophomores Jacksson Waialae and Mason Rector, and freshmen Cole Ficke and Brody Rice are four reasons the Wildcats are where they are.
“Previous years, different sports, it was just more difficult to get along,” said Farrow, who was hit in the mouth by a ground ball during Sunday’s pre-game infield practice. “I didn’t feel like there was any drama with this team. Very easy to play with each other.”
And even though Bandow, Davidson, Farrow and Howard are the captains of this 19-10 BHS squad, their ears are open to listen to any and all comments.
“Everybody’s on board with whatever anybody has to say,” Davidson said. “Some guys have that self-entitled mindset. Not this group. This group is special.”
Reach Mark Huber at 937-556-5765, via email email@example.com or on Twitter @wnjsports