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Baseball, jumpers highlight spring season

Published: June 11, 2017 12:00 AM
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They weren't ranked in the state poll.

They didn't win their conference.

And they were behind in their first postseason game.

Yes, the Blue Devils looked like they were going to complete another good but not great season on the diamond.

And then, in a heartbeat, everything changed for the Tallmadge baseball team.

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It's safe to say no one is complaining in the 44278 zip code.

The Blue Devils capped off a season for the ages with a 4-0 victory over Dayton Chaminade Julienne in the Division II state championship game June 3 at Huntington Park in Columbus.

Such a fact seemed hard to believe at one point.

When the final state poll became official last month, Tallmadge was not listed in the top 20 Division II rankings.

The Blue Devils also settled for a second-place finish in the Suburban League American Conference.

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After defeating Aurora in the two teams' first game, the Greenmen won round two to clinch the title.

Oh by the way, Tallmadge looked like it was in big trouble in its first sectional game.

The Blue Devils trailed 2-1 to Canton South and needed some magic late in the game.

Tallmadge found that magic tough to earn a hard-fought 3-2 win.

Fortunately for the Blue Devils, the magic remained in their hands the rest of the way.

They went on to defeat Akron Springfield and Canal Fulton Northwest to win their second Akron district title in three years.

Tallmadge didn't stop there.

The Blue Devils used some small-ball tactics to defeat Chardon Notre Dame Cathedral Latin in a regional semifinal contest.

Tallmadge then punched its ticket to its first state semifinal appearance in 15 years with a hard-fought win over Canfield.

Once the Blue Devils reached Columbus, they looked like seasoned veterans despite having just one senior on the roster.

Tallmadge rallied from a 1-0 deficit to defeat Maumee in a state semifinal game and then capped off its amazing run by shutting out Chaminade Julienne in the final.

The Blue Devils said goodbye to senior designated hitter Josh Taylor, who was a huge presence in the No. 5 hole throughout the season.

But don't expect Tallmadge to be overlooked in the state rankings next spring.

While the baseball team dominated the headlines, Tallmadge also had two other talented athletes competing on the grandest stage.

Senior Vanessa Lane concluded a stellar career with a fourth-place finish in the long jump at the Division I state track and field meet June 3 at The Ohio State University's Jesse Owens Memorial Stadium in Columbus.

Lane jumped a school-record 5 feet, 7 inches. She finished just one inch away from possibly achieving a state title. The top three jumpers reached 5-8.

A performance like this seemed unimaginable at this time last year. Lane jumped 4-9 at the 2016 Austintown-Fitch regional and did not advance to the state meet.

Last not least was junior Sara Johnson.

The diminutive three-sport athlete reached the ultimate stage for the first time and didn't disappoint.

Johnson, who also played for the Tallmadge soccer and basketball teams, placed 11th with a leap of 17 feet, 1.25 inches in the long jump.

Johnson finished the season as the Lady Blue Devils' school record holder in three events.

She reached 17-10.75 in the long jump and ran record times of 12.66 and 25.75 seconds, respectively, in the 100- and 200-meter dashes during the Suburban League Championships last month.

I also want to congratulate the Tallmadge softball team. The Lady Blue Devils finished with 20 wins and shared the American Conference title with Highland.

Good luck to Taylor, Lane and the rest of the senior class who made the 2017 spring season an otherworldly success.

And to the rest of the athletes who plan to compete next spring, my message is this: Keep the good times rolling in 2018.

When it comes to this town, success is simply a part of the 44278 zip code's DNA.

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