‘Just wish I could’ve kept going’ -- Greeneview baseball laments regional finals loss

FAIRBORN — Jarrod Mays showed the wear and tear of a long baseball season. Sweat stains formed several rings around his blue Greeneview ballcap. Dirt covered his uniform and part of his face. His jersey hung almost to his knees.

The look said every effort had been given to extend the season on a day that was as hot as it gets around here in early June.

None of those things mattered to Mays. Uniforms and faces can be cleaned. So can ballcaps, but he just might keep the sweat stains as a reminder. They didn’t matter because two things happened Friday that Mays will never forget.

First, he made his last high school baseball memories with a bunch of close friends he will never forget, and he talked about the memories they made along the way.

“United,” an emotional Mays said was a good word to describe them. “We had so much fun together. We’d go fishing, we’d do everything, we’d hang out after practice. And it didn’t seem like practice.”

But practices are over. Mays and his Greeneview teammates, a group that believed it would be the school’s first team to play in the state tournament since 1976, lost its Division III region final, 6-2, to Heath at Wright State’s Nischwitz Stadium.

Instead of the Rams, Heath (24-8) will face Cadiz Harrison Central, an 8-7 winner over Wheelersburg, at 7 p.m. Friday in the state semifinals at Canal Park in Akron.

“I’ve always played with or against these guys,” Mays said after he had packed up his gear for the last time as a high school player. “Just wish I could’ve kept going.”

The memories of a school-record 26 victories, winning a district title for the first time since 1994 and the camaraderie they found in his senior year continued to emotionally pour out of Mays.

“Everyone cares for each other ... didn’t matter what age, we all felt the same,” he said. “We all wanted to ... we all wanted to play next week.”

Mays, the team’s cleanup hitter and first baseman, was in the middle of most of the scoring in Thursday’s semifinal win over Cincinnati Country Day. He tripled in the sixth inning Friday to cut Heath’s lead to 5-2.

In the seventh, the Rams trailed 6-2, made Heath change pitchers twice, and loaded the bases. Mays came to bat with two outs representing the tying run. This is the second thing he will remember even though no one will ever blame him for the loss.

Mays popped up in foul territory, but the first baseman dropped an easy out for the second time in the game. Given a second chance, Mays worked the count to 2-2 but struck out swinging to end the game.

“That’s all you dream of,” Mays said speaking more steady now. “You dream bases loaded, two outs, bottom of the seventh, me up there. You’re up there to do some damage, keep it going, something. I mean, that’s what the job is – keep it going, keep it rolling, next guy. I was saying that the whole game.

“Didn’t go our way. Didn’t go my way.”

Rams coach John Brooks agreed with Mays about the seventh-inning drama.

“We were set up there at the end for it to be one of those magical moments,” Brooks said. “We couldn’t have scripted it any better. We rolled it 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 is the game of baseball. Sometimes you can do everything perfectly in baseball and not get rewarded for it. And you can also do things that are not so perfect or bad and get rewarded for it. Some stuff didn’t fall our way, and some stuff did fall their way.”

Rams coach John Brooks took over the team two years ago. Last year he had this year to look forward to with a more seasoned team. In time, he will be eager to get started on next season. But in the moments after being handed the runner-up trophy he wasn’t thinking ahead.

“Sad, but not because we lost,” he said. “Sad because this is the end of this group. It’s been the greatest coaching pleasure of my life to coach this group and being around them every day, whether it’s practice or games. It’s been fun. And so for it to end is a bummer.”

Mays will play four more years in college at Mount Union and study mechanical engineering. The other four seniors were all starters: catcher and relief pitcher Hunter Brooks, left fielder Ben Myers, third baseman Tanner Thornton and shortstop Kaden Knisley. Junior pitchers Keegan Phillips and Landon Gardner will be back to lead what should be a good team. But this was the seniors’ last chance to play in Akron.

“This was the time to do it because last year we fell short a little bit,” Mays said. “This year we did the same, just went a little farther. Can’t go back – it’s just how it has to be.”

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