As they embarked on their record-breaking season, Firelands embraced the motto: one team, one goal. With the school’s first district championship under their belt, the Falcons are closer to the ultimate goal than any Firelands team.
No. 3 Firelands (26-3) will have a tough challenge Thursday against No. 1 Wapakoneta (21-1) in a Division II regional semifinal at Bowling Green’s Carter Park at 2 p.m.
The Falcons have won a lot of games over the past four years — 82 to be exact — so they won’t be intimidated.
“We know Wapakoneta has four quality pitchers but we feel like we have a good chance because we have our own ace in Evan Lacey. I have all the confidence in the world in him,” said senior catcher Colin Ransom, the Patriot Athletic Conference Player of the Year.
Firelands won 17 games each in 2016 and 2017 but fell short in the district tournament both years. Lacey said the team’s maturity has played a big role in taking the next step to regionals.
“It’s been a perfect storm. The seniors have really matured and grown up and the younger guys, the sophomore and juniors, have really come into their own and shown how talented they are,” he said.
Part of maturity is knowing how to handle big games. Lacey said he learned a lot from a loss last year in the district finals, and it has helped him during this tournament run.
“I don’t really feel pressure anymore,” he said. “Last year I felt way too much pressure against Padua and I walked four in a row and I was out of the game. Pressure doesn’t get you anywhere.”
According to big-hitting senior Calvin Stull, the Falcons have also been stepping into the batter’s box with a renewed purpose.
“Our mindset has changed. One through nine in the batting order we’ve been taking a different approach at the plate,” Stull said. “We come into every at-bat knowing we have to take it one pitch at a time and if we do that we’re going to generate runs.”
After coming so close in previous years, winning a district championship was a big deal for the Falcons, but still not the ultimate goal.
“When the season started we had our eyes on the prize of winning the district championship and holding that trophy up but we’re not done yet,” Stull said. “Going to regionals is what we’ve been working for. We’ve been pumped about it for the past week. We want to take advantage of this opportunity.”
The season has meant even more for Ransom because he’s been able to share every moment with his father, coach Dan Ransom.
“It’s been really great doing what we’re doing, making school history, being the first Firelands baseball team to go this far,” Colin Ransom said. “And with me being the coach’s son, there’s even more feeling behind it. To do this with my dad is extra special.”
Dan Ransom said the foundation of the team’s success was put in place well before the start of the season.
“The majority of our guys are getting the extra work during the summer, playing at a higher level and taking baseball more seriously and it’s paying off,” he said. “We have a core group of players who are really focused on baseball and have the desire to play on the next level.”
While previous Falcons teams may have had great pitching or great hitting or outstanding senior leadership, this is the first time all of the pieces have come together in a championship puzzle.
“We’ve had some great runs and some great kids over the last four years but this group was more focused on taking that next step,” Dan Ransom said. “These guys bought in when the coaches told them how special they could be and they wanted to take the program to the next level.”
After a pair of last-at-bat wins against Buckeye and Rocky River in the first two postseason games and achieving one of its goals by avenging the 2017 loss to Padua in the district finals, Firelands is excited to have the chance to accomplish further goals.
“I’m excited for Thursday. We know Wapakoneta is good but if we put the ball in play and do the things we’ve done all season, I feel like we can come away with a win,” Lacey said.