JACKSON TWP. The stack of accomplishments keeps getting taller for Jackson baseball, but the Polar Bears aren’t quite ready to start reflecting on their feats quite yet.
With a win against Waynedale on Monday in a regular-season contest squeezed in between district and regional tournament play, the Polar Bears set a school record for wins in a season, lifting their overall record to 29-0.
Add in a 12-0 Federal League mark, another league title, an Associated Press Division I state poll championship and a top-50 ranking much of the season in the USA Today Super 25 national poll, it’s been an historic season already for one of the dominant programs in Northeast Ohio for the past five years.
Still, head coach Bill Gamble, his staff and players aren’t content with what they’ve done so far.
“All of that stuff, the polls, the batting averages and all of the other statistics … when you step out on the field this weekend at regionals, everyone is 0-0,” Gamble said. “Those are the types of things you can reflect on after the season because our sole focus is always the next game.”
However, keeping both eyes firmly fixed on the next step in the process doesn’t mean that Jackson’s players and coaches haven’t taken time to enjoy the ride up to this point. With smaller goals along the way to their ultimate mission to win another state title, they’ve had plenty of chances to pause, celebrate, lift a trophy or two and pose for happy photos.
“We’ve acknowledged all of them along the way … the poll championship, the Federal league title outright … going undefeated in the league, which I don’t know the last time that happened … we’ve definitely acknowledged all of those accomplishments and enjoyed them,” Gamble said.
Winning the district title, while appearing easy based simply on the numbers, wasn’t as simple as the final scores made it appear. With a cumulative scoring margin of 30-3, the Polar Bears dispatched league rivals McKinley and Green, along with Wooster, to capture their third straight district crown.
Still, the 7-0 defeat of Wooster in the final was closer than the score indicated and had some drama until the very end. Dealing with that drama is a bit easier with 16 players back from last season’s regional finalist team - and three seniors who were part of the 2014 state championship team. The experience of those players helps on the field and could also be a valuable asset off of it as the end of school means much more free time and distractions for the team during the days.
“We’re all creatures of habit and it’s tough to break those daily routines,” Gamble said. “We’ve talked a lot about that stuff, like staying hydrated, our calorie intake, our sleep patterns and getting enough rest … that’s important.”
A return to the regional tournament also means going back to Thurman Munson Stadium in Canton, a venue the Polar Bears think of as a second home field, according to their coach. They’ve played there approximately 15 times the past couple years and know the nuances of the park as well as possible. Going back also means facing memories of last season’s regional final loss to Aurora, a defeat that stuck with the Polar Bears and whose scorecard hung in the locker room this season as a piece of motivational propaganda for this season’s squad.
Reversing that outcome and earning a trip back to Huntington Park in Columbus is the next item on the to-do list, but it’s already been a history-making season for the Polar Bears.
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