COLUMBUS, Ohio – Mason baseball coach Curt Bly gathered his team near the Huntington Park left-field foul pole late Friday afternoon.
The raw emotion was evident. Tears were choked back. Hugs and pats on the back eased the temporary anguish. Whitehouse Anthony Wayne just defeated the Comets 1-0 in a Division I state semifinal.
Mason players and coaches couldn’t quite believe their season had just ended. But, none of them will ever forget the special journey.
“I told them it’s OK to be disappointed in the outcome but I could never be disappointed in them, their effort and the team that they are and the people that they are,” Bly told reporters after the five-minute team meeting on the field.
Mason (26-6) earned its first trip to the state baseball tournament since 1987 when it was the Class AA state runner-up. The Comets were regional champions, district champions, sectional champions and Greater Miami Conference champions this spring.
Bly will remember each player on the roster, including eight seniors, on the state semifinalist team.
“The kids that I had the opportunity to coach - these seniors, every single of them is special to me,” Bly said. “It’s the relationships. It’s the time together. The wins are great. The championships and all are great. When you really reflect on the season it’s about the kids.”
Anthony Wayne senior right-handed pitcher Brock Nartker, a Wright State signee, limited the Comets to two hits Friday. Nartker had a no-hitter through 4 2/3 innings before junior Joe Powell (UC commit) broke it up with an infield single in the fifth.
Sophomore Cole Harting had a one-out double to left in the fifth but was stranded at third after two ground outs.
Mason senior pitcher Will Pfennig (Ohio State signee) pitched well for the Comets. He allowed one run on six hits while striking out six.
Pfennig finished the season with a 9-1 record. He said being a part of the Mason program meant everything including the influence of the coaching staff.
“Coach Bly,” Pfennig said. “He’s a heck of a guy. As a baseball player and as a man – I love the guy.”
Anthony Wayne senior Nick Schneider’s RBI single to left gave the General their only run in the bottom of the third.
Meanwhile, Mason had four or five loud outs. The Comets also left nine runners on base.
“The big ballpark hurt us,” Bly said. “There were a couple of balls really struck well there. They were able to make plays on them. I told the guys that is baseball.”
Mason threatened in the top of the seventh inning with the tying run 90 feet away. But, a fly out that was an estimated 360-plus feet ended the game with runners at second and third.
Mason senior Nick Northcut, who walked four times in the game including intentionally in the seventh, said the Comets had scoring opportunities and didn’t expect the game would be decided by one run.
Northcut, a Vanderbilt signee and the Gatorade Ohio Player of the Year, says the team is like a family.
“We are changing the culture here at Mason,” Northcut said. “It’s my goal the past four years to try to change it. To make Mason a well-known team in the state who has an opportunity to go to the state championship as often as possible. There is going to be teams behind us – younger generations – that will follow in our footsteps. and hopefully get back here soon.”
Anthony Wayne (27-4) plays Powell Olentangy Liberty (29-4) in the Division I state final at 4 p.m. Saturday.