Do you remember the first time Eastside went to state in baseball?
In the years ahead, Blazer fans will be talking about the 2021 team which had its season canceled by a pandemic the year before, then came within one game of winning it all the next year.
Stories and memories will abound as the community thinks back to a team that just kept getting better, and gave its green-clad faithful more and more reason to believe.
The Blazers’ success is reflected in the KPC Media Group All-Area baseball team, on which the top awards not only went to the same team, but the same family.
Owen Willard, the team’s pitching ace with pinpoint control and a downright wicked breaking ball, is the All-Area Prep of the Year.
His father, Aaron Willard, who guided the Blazers to their magical 26-7 season, is the All-Area Coach of the Year.
Owen Willard was undefeated until the Class 2A state championship game loss to Providence. He finished 9-1 with three saves and had an ERA of less than 1.00. In 79 innings of work, he struck out 136 while walking only 21.
The All-Northeast Corner Conference first-teamer was also a force on offense for Eastside, hitting .484 with a .581 on-base percentage. He drove in 32 runs and scored 35, and stole 14 bases.
Aaron Willard has been a winner in every sport he’s coached at Eastside, and fell just short in his bid to become the first coach to win a state title in both softball and baseball. He steered the Blazer softball team to the Class 1A state crown in 1998. He also won a sectional in the one-class tournament as a boys basketball coach.
Willard picked up his 100th baseball coaching win during the Blazers’ tournament run. He coached them to a sectional title for the third time, and the Blazers brought the program its first regional and semi-state championships.
Eastside also won the Northeast Corner Conference regular-season and tournament titles.
The rest of this year’s All-Area team:
Dylan Hertig, Sr., C, Eastside: Hertig anchored a smooth Blazer defense and earned All-NECC first-team recognition. He batted .299 with three home runs, 30 RBIs and 11 doubles.
Caleb Vanover, Sr., OF, Eastside: Vanover had a big senior year, hitting .344 and driving in 25 runs. He had five doubles and one home run while earning first-team all-conference honors.
Wade Miller, Sr., OF, Eastside: Miller helped make the Blazers strong up the middle on defense. He hit .225 with a .422 on-base percentage, and had four home runs and 26 RBIs. He was first-team All-NECC.
Kameron Colclasure, Sr., SS-P, Fremont: Colclasure hit .458 with six homers and 41 RBIs and was first-team all-conference. He scored 53 runs with 10 doubles and six triples. He went 6-3 with a 3.04 ERA on the mound with 53 strikeouts and 27 walks in 53 innings.
Ethan Bock, Jr., 2B-P, Fremont: Bock batted .495 while driving in 25 runs and scoring 29. The All-NECC pick was 6-1 with a 1.40 ERA pitching, and fanned 30 in 35 innings for the sectional runners-up.
Nick Miller, Jr., C, Fremont: Miller earned All-NECC first-team honors after hitting .462 with two homers and 44 RBIs. He had 16 doubles and a .521 on-base percentage.
Gabel Pentecost, Jr., P-3B, Fremont: Pentecost went 5-3 with a 1.09 ERA and 90 K’s in 57 2/3 innings. He batted .398 with 24 RBIs and 29 runs scored, and was named to the All-NECC first team.
Brayden Risedorph, Jr., P-3B, East Noble: The Knights’ ace earned first-team All-Northeast 8 recognition after going 3-3 with a 2.00 ERA, and 60 strikeouts in 35 innings. He hit .324 with five home runs and 26 RBIs.
Justin Marcellus, Sr., 3B, East Noble: Marcellus batted .388, scoring 31 runs and driving in 25. He also stole 20 bases and was a first-team All-NE8 selection.
Walker Leamon, Sr., OF, East Noble: Leamon covered the ground in center field and was an offensive spark with a .373 average, 17 RBIs and 12 stolen bases. He was an All-NE8 first-teamer.
Riley Meade, Sr., P-SS, East Noble: Meade was a .343 hitter with 16 RBIs and 17 steals. The All-NE8 second-teamer went 4-2 pitching with a 1.37 ERA. He struck out 36 and walked just four in 35 2/3 innings.
Aric Ehmke, Sr., P-SS, DeKalb: Selected for the IHSBCA North-South All-Star Series, Ehmke had a 7-2 pitching record and a 2.09 ERA. In 57 innings, he fanned 102 and walked 24. He also hit .465 with a .558 on-base percentage, with six home runs, 23 RBIs, 11 doubles and 55 runs scored.
Steele Jackson, Sr., OF, DeKalb: Jackson batted .418 with a .514 on-base percentage while making the Baron defense solid up the middle. He had five homers, 16 doubles and 30 RBIs.
Nolan Nack, Sr., 3B, DeKalb: Nack hit .440 and drove in 32 runs for the sectional runners-up. He had nine doubles and scored 39 runs.
Alex Leslie, So., C-OF-DH, DeKalb: Leslie had a .379 batting average and a .468 on-base percentage. He drove in 31 runs and had seven doubles.
Zak Hill, Jr., C, Angola: Hill caught every inning of every game for the Hornets. The All-NECC first-teamer hit at a .438 clip.
Evan Snyder, Sr. 1B-P, Churubusco: Snyder earned first-team All-NECC honors with a .432 average and .519 on-base percentage. He had two home runs, 10 doubles and 32 RBIs, and struck out only six times in 108 plate appearances. He was 2-0 pitching with one save and 36 K’s in 25 2/3 innings.
Brayten Gordon, Sr., OF, Churubusco: The All-NECC first-teamer hit .360 with a .517 on-base percentage. He scored 40 runs and drove in 20 with two homers, six doubles and four triples.
Brayden Bontrager, Sr., P-OF-1B, Lakeland: Bontrager led the Lakers in 10 statistical categories and was first-team All-NECC. He had a 3.23 ERA with 51 strikeouts in 43 1/3 innings. He hit .400 with 24 RBIs and eight doubles.
Gage Smith, Sr., P-3B, Garrett: Smith made the all-conference team with a .385 average and a .452 on-base percentage, and had four homers and 33 RBIs. He was 5-2 as a pitcher with a 1.48 ERA and 93 strikeouts in 52 innings.
Trey Richards, Jr., 1B, Garrett: The All-NECC first-teamer hit .329 with a .491 on-base percentage, and struck out just 11 times in 114 plate appearances. He made just two errors in the field.
Graham Kelham, Jr., P-SS, Garrett: Kelham batted .352 with a .427 on-base percentage. He scored 30 runs and was 17-of-18 in steals. The All-NECC pick had a 3-2 pitching mark with 50 strikeouts in 30 1/3 innings.
Dylan Eggl, Sr., DH, Central Noble: Eggl batted .469 and drove in 29 runs for the regional runners-up. He made the All-NECC first team.
Jaxon Copas, Fr., 3B-P, Central Noble: Copas was a .407 hitter with 27 RBIs in his first varsity season, and earned first-team all-conference recognition.
Cade Weber, Jr., P-3B, Central Noble: Weber had 37 strikeouts in 38 2/3 innings. He won all of his postseason starts to key a strong tournament run by the Cougars.