Teams trying to take next step
That's exactly what the baseball teams from Boardman and South Range high schools have as the tournament opened this week.
The area's only state-ranked teams -- Boardman is second in Division I; South Range is third in Division IV -- haven't forgotten about last season.
How could they, with so much at stake?
On the strength of seven seniors and playing under first-year coach Scott Knox, the Spartans advanced to the state semifinals in Columbus.
Not only did Boardman lose 9-5 to Maumee at Cooper Stadium, but it was the way it happened.
The Spartans loaded the bases in the final three innings and practically had Maumee pitcher Ed Garcia on the ropes. But they stranded 12 baserunners and suffered one bad inning.
In their minds, they went home too early. Minutes after that game, the Spartans were talking about next season, how they wanted another opportunity.
Well, here it is.
"They should be right back here next year," then-Boardman senior second baseman Kevin Gesacion said of his teammates after that game, "to send these guys [Maumee] home packing, instead of us."
Boardman (18-1), which suffered its first loss Tuesday against Poland, plays its first tournament game next Wednesday against today's Howland/Warren Harding winner.
Suffering a similar fate
South Range must empathize with Boardman.
Last season, the Raiders played in the district championship game for the first time, and they could see the path to the Elyria regional widening.
But a wild pitch allowed Windham to score the go-ahead run in the sixth inning.
Then frustration took over in the seventh, when one of the Raiders' top batters, with the tying run at second with two outs, was ejected for arguing. The replacement batter struck out to end the game.
Windham 4, South Range 3. Guess who could meet in the district semifinals at Cene Park?
"Our measuring stick is how good we do against Windham," coach Dan Szolek said. "As far as I know, they have everybody back. They're in the same situation we are."
The Raiders (19-4), who open the tournament next Tuesday at Lowellville, seem to have a lot going for them, even after a loss Monday to McDonald.
They have experienced athletes who have played in the postseason in other sports. The football team qualified for the playoffs and the basketball team played for a district title.
"They are used to that type of [tournament] setting and atmosphere," said Szolek, who credits his assistant coaches, Tim Niles and Brian Tarajack, for the Raiders' success.
Those around North Lima have grown familiar with Jason King, George Rohan, Hogie Walley, Jimmy Sanders, Brad Johnson, Jeff Johnston, Robert Bates, Bobby Miller and Tom Kimmel.
"We know expectations were high. The kids can handle that," admitted Szolek, whose team was ranked as high as fifth last season.
"But our work is not done," he said. "We want to advance further than we did last year. I don't think anything's impossible with this group."
Still, questions will be answered only when Boardman and South Range prove they are worthy of their ranking by making another tournament run.
In other words: Taking care of their unfinished business.
XBrian Richesson covers high school sports for The Vindicator. Write to him at firstname.lastname@example.org.