WEST CHESTER TOWNSHIP, Ohio -- Almost 10 years later, Bill Dreisbach still has an indelible image of being on the Cooper Stadium field after Lakota West won the Division I state baseball title.
Dreisbach, the Firebirds coach at the time, heard “Pomp and Cirumstance” over the public-address system as he watched his 10 seniors receive their high school diplomas at home plate in the early morning of June 3, 2007 in Columbus.
Lakota West just defeated Mentor 4-0 to win the Division I state title. The game actually started June 2 but a three-hour rain delay made it end after midnight June 3.
“It was a great night,” said Dreisbach.
The first pitch was at 10:30 p.m. The seniors missed their high school graduation but received the diplomas at the end of the game. No one seemed to mind.
Ten years later, the Firebirds will return to the school and the baseball field where so many memories are a part of each of their lives.
Dreisbach, the coaching staff and up to 20 players on that ’07 team will be recognized at halftime of tonight’s Colerain at Lakota West boys’ basketball game (7:30 p.m. tipoff). The team will gather for a dinner before the game.
“It’s hard to believe it has been 10 years,” said Brad Gschwind, who is an assistant baseball coach at Northern Kentucky University and was a first-team all-state infielder that season. “It will be exciting to get the group back together and celebrate with their families.”
Lakota West defeated Mentor in one of the final games played at Cooper Stadium. The state baseball championships moved to Huntington Park in 2009.
“The thing I remember most about the 2007 season is the brotherhood that was formed, the dog pile (at the end of the final) and how everyone cared more about the team than themselves,” said Los Angeles of Anaheim Angels pitcher Nathan Smith.
“We had some great leaders that made it aware we had to put in the work to earn anything, but also reminded us we were talented enough to hang with anyone in the state.”
Bryan Beaver pitched a complete-game shutout and struck out six in the final. Beaver said Dreisbach and the coaching staff instilled an attitude that made the squad successful.
“That group of guys was something special,” Beaver said. “And to this day, I’ve never been part of anything quite like it.”
Lakota West defeated Cleveland St. Ignatius 8-2 in the state semifinal May 31. The Firebirds (28-5) won 10 consecutive games to finish the season.
Dreisbach, who helps to coach his son’s 8-and-under team, says it’s tough to believe it’s been 10 years. He is looking forward to tonight. Dreisbach, a former Reds minor-leaguer and bullpen catcher, won 347 career high school games before he retired after the 2015 season.
“From the starters to the role players, everyone was on the same page,” Dreisbach said. “This was an extremely driven group. The leadership and work ethic were off the charts. Win or lose, I know all of our coaches feel blessed to have had the opportunity to coach this group.”