FAIRBORN — As Jarrod Mays finished speaking about his team, they were all waiting for him together inside the dugout staring out toward the field.
Soaking in memories for the final time as a group, together they exited out and were greeted outside of it with applause by the Rams fans awaiting and wanting to congratulate them one final time.
Greeneview gave itself a chance in its final opportunities at the plate, but weren’t able to close the gap as its season ended in a 6-2 defeat against Heath on Friday in the Division III regional final at Nischwitz Stadium.
The Rams loaded the bases in the sixth and seventh innings, but weren’t able to score in either situation.
“I love playing with those guys,” Mays said. “I’ve always played with or against these guys and I just wish we could have kept going.”
Greeneview’s 2023 team set a school record with a 26-5 record, winning the Ohio Heritage Conference championship and the school’s fifth ever district title. The Rams outscored opponents by 143 runs, produced a 10-game winning streak late in the regular season, and were ranked No. 5 in the final OHSBCA state top-20 poll.
“Last year when we started rebuilding and changing some things and adjusting our strategy, it was all about building something,” head coach John-Marc Brooks said. “Last year they went 15-8 and this year they’re 26-5. To me that shows they put a lot of work into this and built something pretty special.”
Playing for a chance to reach state for the first time in nearly five decades, the Rams trailed by four in the late innings before trying to get a comeback moving.
Greeneview loaded the bases in the sixth after Jarrod Mays smacked a RBI triple to deep center field to close the deficit to three. Following an infielder’s indecision on a single hit to third and then a hit by pitch, Kaden Knisley had the bases loaded with one out. A sharply hit grounder went directly to short and a quick dart thrown to first just beat Knisley’s slide attempt to finish off a double play.
Heath got its lead back to four after they also loaded the bases in the top of the seventh and squeezed home a runner just ahead of the toss to the plate.
Chase Walker and Keegan Phillips both singled to get a final rally started, and two Heath pitching changes sandwiched a four-pitch walk to Hunter Brooks to bring the tying run to the plate with two outs left. Trying to keep the line moving, Ben Myers just got under a pitch on a pop up to shallow right field, and Mays struck out to seal the Rams’ fate.
“We were kind of set up there at the end for it to be kind of one of those magical moments,” Brooks said. “We couldn’t have scripted it any better really rolling right into the part of the lineup that we want to do all of our damage from and it just didn’t work out. That’s the game of baseball there.”
Greeneview grabbed the lead initially in the first inning starting when Hunter Brooks took a pitch directly in his shoulder. After stealing second with two outs, a wild pickoff attempt went into center field allowing him to advance to third. Mays chopped a 2-1 pitch toward third where the charging defender couldn’t make the play at first in time as Mays slid in safely.
Two out hitting helped Heath grab and build its lead. Landon Gardner escaped the first inning of his start unscathed, but couldn’t get the final strike in the second as Heath’s leadoff hitter battled and sent a line drive into left field as the Bulldogs tied the score.
Both teams traded quick third and fourths, but two throwing errors set up Heath early in the fifth. A delayed double steal of second and home scored the go-ahead run after a return throw home from second didn’t reach the plate in time.
With the score at 3-1 in the sixth, a walk with two outs set up another RBI single to score two more and put the Bulldogs up four. The deficit was the largest the Rams faced in more than a month.
Mays went 2-for-4 with two RBI in his final game for Greeneview. Walker also had two hits. Gardner in his start struck out two in six innings while allowing eight singles and four earned runs.
Mays used the word “united” to describe the way the Rams approached their campaign. Even before the final rally began, he could be heard in the dugout continuing to encourage all of his teammates that their chance was coming.
Greeneview’s senior class had a memorable run to the end of their high school careers. Multiple league titles and deep postseason runs provided happy moments to look back at, and the players made sure to enjoy everything together through to the end.
“We just had so much fun together,” Mays said. “We’d do everything and hang out after practice, and none of them seemed like practices. It was always just like we’re having fun. Like we did the whole time we were younger. … This was the time to do it, but can’t go back now as it’s just how it has to be.”
Brooks said while he wished the season ended differently, he believes no one can look at the team’s accomplishments with anything but pride.
“It’s been the greatest coaching pleasure of my life to coach this group,” he said. “Being around them every day, whether it’s practice or games, it’s been fun and for it to end is a bummer. That’s really the only sadness that I have.
“They played great, they did things that no one would expect them to do, and I’m proud of them.”
Contact Steven Wright at 937-502-4498 and follow on Twitter @Steven_Wright_.