High School baseball: Now at Brookville, Harlow still going strong

Chuck Harlow (center) is coaching the Brookville High School baseball team after a successful run at Northmont. CONTRIBUTED BY GREG BILLING
Chuck Harlow (center) is coaching the Brookville High School baseball team after a successful run at Northmont. CONTRIBUTED BY GREG BILLING

BROOKVILLE – Chuck Harlow figured his high school baseball coaching career was finished after retiring in the spring of 2018. Harlow had completed 37 seasons, the last 34 with the Northmont Thunderbolts.

It was a great run with 13 sectional titles, 12 conference titles, five district titles and one regional runner-up finish.

Then the Brookville Blue Devils called. Scott Broerman, the athletic director and baseball coach at the time, needed a replacement. Harlow was offered the coaching job. He said yes, giving the Blue Devils a two-year commitment.

“This is my third season, counting last year,” Harlow said Monday afternoon soon after rain washed out Brookville’s scheduled Division III sectional tournament game at Versailles.

Harlow and his Blue Devils returned to Versailles on Tuesday, and much like Harlow’s coaching career, it was a success.

Brookville senior Steve Jones pitched a complete game shutout to send No. 13 Brookville past No. 8 Versailles 3-0. Broerman, coincidentally, is now the AD at Versailles High School.

“I thought when I retired at Northmont I was done,” Harlow said. “Scott and I talked a little bit and I was kind of teased by (coaching at Brookville). Every time I talked to him I went home and told my wife, ‘I’m not doing it. I’m done.’”

Harlow changed his mind about a month later.

“I liked the kids. I liked the school. And here we are,” Harlow said.

Brookville followed up that upset against Versailles with another on Wednesday. Brookville knocked off No. 4 Miami East 3-20.

Starter Jack Stanoikovich allowed four hits and two runs (one earned) in five innings. He struck out two and walked three. Reliever Mason Starnes pitched the final two innings allowing one hit and striking out two.

Against Miami East, five different Blue Devils had one hit with Matthew Stark and Jones driving in runs. Brookville led 3-1 in the top of the sixth after Stanoikovich reached on an error to score Zach Shore.

In his three seasons at Brookville (counting the cancelled 2020 season) Harlow is 27-27 overall. That puts him 742-369-2 in his career. He ranks No. 9 in the state according to the Ohio High School Athletic Association.

Harlow acknowledges he hasn’t achieved his success alone. Former Northmont players Mat Miller (1986), Zach Kirby (2015) and Collin Hobert (2017) are on his Brookville coaching staff, and junior varsity coach Matt Helmstetter also played at Northmont.

The real MVP, Harlow said, is his wife, Beth.

“I’ve got the world’s greatest wife. She knows this makes me happy,” Harlow said. “Our family has kind of adapted to it. It’s not always easy. It’s a lot of time. She’s the hall of famer of anybody in this family.”

Harlow, 64, still has the same enthusiasm for coaching as he did during his first three varsity seasons at Dixie High School. And his sense of humor, too.

During a tense moment in the bottom of the seventh against Versailles, Harlow made the slow walk to the mound to talk with Jones. The Tigers had two runners on base and the tying run at the plate.

“I went out there at the end and I tried to crack a joke,” Harlow said. “(Jones) didn’t think it was too funny. He was bound and determined to finish the game.”

Jones did, getting a fly to centerfield for the victory.

Brookville lost its first four games during the regular season and started 1-7. The Blue Devils grabbed wins here and there to finish the regular season 11-15. Just like their community that faced devastating tornado damage in 2019 and the loss of spring high school sports in 2020, the Blue Devils have kept battling.

“Our kids have gone through a lot with the tornado that wreaked havoc on our school and with the pandemic,” Harlow said at the beginning of this season. “Damage on the school and the baseball field was extensive. But the people have rallied and our kids have been in school since day one of the fall.”

For his part, Harlow has battled through four knee surgeries and three back operations. He’s still going strong – even with those long bus rides.

“I know (coaching) is going to help me with the only record I’ve ever set in my life – I’ve recorded more miles on the big yellow cheese (school bus) than anybody in America,” Harlow said, laughing. “I still really like the kids. I was never good at anything. … I just like the kids.”