CLYDE, Ohio — They were coming off back-to-back losing seasons and picked to finish fourth in the Toledo Area Athletic Conference.
Yet as Tab Greenlee addressed his Toledo Christian baseball team at a Cracker Barrel outside Cleveland earlier this spring, he cared little about the past.
The team had just finished a father-son retreat that included laser tag and Whirlyball — a cross between bumper cars and lacrosse.
The mood felt right to dream.
“We set out three goals,” said Greenlee, the Eagles’ fourth coach in four years. “And they were to have a winning season, win the TAAC, and go to regionals.”
On Friday, Toledo Christian bounded another step closer to a clean sweep with a 5-2 over Cardinal Stritch in a Division IV district final.
The Eagles (19-6) can clinch the outright TAAC regular-season title with a win over Ottawa Hills on Tuesday before meeting Tinora in Thursday’s regional semifinal at Patrick Henry.
“This means the world to us,” junior Kyle Kempton said. “All season, we've been the underdog. To come out and prove otherwise, it feels good.”
Heck, better than good, judging by the water cooler emptied onto Greenlee or the teamwide postgame rendition of “Ain’t No Mountain High Enough.”
“Oh, man, this is great,” Eagles starter Kody Brown. “I'm happy for everybody."
After taking down third-ranked Gibsonburg in the district semifinals, Brown and a two-out burst of offense extended the Eagles’ postseason tear.
Brown held TAAC favorite Cardinal Stritch (14-10) to two runs on two hits while striking out seven over seven innings. The senior right-hander’s only stress came in the fourth inning, when a two-out error was followed by a seeing-eye single and a two-run double by Chase Dearing.
By then, though, the Eagles already had five runs, spurred by an unforeseen four-run rally an inning earlier.
A top of the third inning that began with two on, nobody out, and neither team owning a hit ended with Toledo Christian batting around.
After Cardinal Stritch starter Grant Curavo hit No. 9-batter Andrew Gast, the next six Eagles reached base.
Kyle Kempton put TC on the board with a two-run double, and Brett Freeman and Aaron Dunn followed with run-scoring hits.
Curavo, who appeared so sharp early, allowed four runs on four hits and three walks in 2 2/3 innings.
“That felt really good, coming all with two outs,” said Kempton, who finished 2-for-4 with two doubles and three RBIs. “Andrew Gast stepped up and took the pitch. That just got it rolling.”