ST. BERNARD, Ohio — Roger Bacon baseball coach Tim McCoy was standing in the third base coaching box on a late Saturday afternoon last June when his mind turned the clock ahead one year.
McCoy watched the final half-inning as Coldwater defeated Roger Bacon 12-7 in a Division III state semifinal June 8, 2019 at Canal Park in Akron.
Instead of the initial postgame melancholy, he spoke about the anticipation of another opportunity.
The Spartans' memorable journey to the state tournament concluded early, but McCoy couldn't wait for the team to start lifting weights in preparation for the 2020 season.
That promise of this spring inspired the Spartans through the fall and winter offseason workouts.
"There was no doubt in my mind that we were going to be back on that state field," said Roger Bacon 2020 infielder/outfielder Chris Hoffmann.
Little did anyone realize that not a single pitch would be thrown due to the coronavirus outbreak.
Diamonds went dormant. Schedules were torn up. There was crying in baseball.
"I was always hoping," Roger Bacon 2020 shortstop Evan Kelsey said. "Everybody kept saying the season is canceled and I just never thought about that, especially the senior season because you never want to lose it."
The Ohio High School Athletic Association canceled the spring sports season April 20 after Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine's decision to close schools for the remainder of the school year.
It was a difficult moment for all Ohio high school spring sports athletes; the Spartans were no exception.
"When this whole thing was finally canceled I honestly didn't know what to tell them," McCoy said. "I heard different stories from some parents texting me saying, 'So and so is really taking this hard. I've walked into their room and found them crying.'"
McCoy, a 2002 Roger Bacon graduate, broke down a few times this spring, too. He sort of wanted to take the blame for the lost season. He texted the players leading up to the cancellation and urged them to stay upbeat.
In the end, McCoy said it was a test unlike any other. No one knew how to initially grasp the cancellation.
Still, McCoy couldn't be more proud of the 10 seniors. He prefers to reflect upon the unique journey of their high school careers.
"This senior class has surpassed every single expectation that was in place," McCoy said. "It's incredible how far they've brought not just the baseball program there but the school itself. This senior class is a tight-knit group of guys."
Roger Bacon made its first state baseball tournament appearance last year for the first time since 1968.
It had the most wins (18) in program history since the '68 team (20-3-1). The momentum from 2019 was supposed to carry over to this spring.
The Spartans moved up to Division II but had 17 of its 21 players from 2019 set to return.
The only game memory from 2020 on the field was a highly competitive intrasquad scrimmage in mid-March at Ross Park.
A team photo was put on hold. New uniforms and hats were never worn.
Some voids will never be filled.
"It just hit me hard, especially when the season was canceled," Kelsey said. "The bond really hit you because, after games and all that, we would either go out to eat, hang out or do something. We would always have good chemistry."
Graduation has come and gone. Many of the Spartans will take separate paths in college. Yet, somehow they always will be linked.
The seniors kept a group chat going in order to stay connected this spring and share their best memories.
"We just love each other," Kelsey said. "It's that simple."
Summer baseball has started and has slowly eased the pain. But it still stings. Each player and coach knows what could've been.
"I told those guys when the stag happens in a few years, when they're allowed to come back to the Roger Bacon stag, they'll be able to have beers with their buddies and tell them that this was the best Roger Bacon baseball team that ever was established," McCoy said. "Nobody could argue it. There is no record to argue it."
The seniors have had time to reflect. The 2019 regional championship win over Versailles at Wright State University has grown in significance.
"We ended it in the semifinals of state for the first time in 51 years," said Hoffmann, who earned the save in the regional final. "I just think that's just incredible."
Roger Bacon baseball has played such a significant role in their lives. That's the ultimate lasting legacy that won't ever be canceled.
"It's been awesome," Hoffmann said. "It's been a great experience. I would not give it up for a thing."