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When he was announced as the newest baseball head baseball coach at Grant County High School, Van Duncan privately told me what his goals were for the season, and to be honest, I was a bit skeptical.
I did not doubt his enthusiasm, but rather whether as a first-year coach, he could turn around a team that finished 12-13 the previous year and do all the things he set out to do—win 20 games, win a district title and win a regional title.
After opening the season with a 13-4 defeat against Harrison County, Grant County won nine of its next 10 games. During that run, the Braves defeated the likes of Pendleton County, Williamstown and Simon Kenton by a combined score of 32-1.
It was at this time that Duncan made believers out of their staunchest doubters.
All doubt was removed when the Braves captured the 32nd District Tournament at Williamstown High School, sending the team into the 8th Region Tournament.
Despite not advancing to the region tournament in five years, the Braves fought the good fight before bowing out, 8-1, and falling short in their effort to establish a toehold on their uphill climb from baseball obscurity to baseball tradition.
"I am happy with our season. I believe we have turned the program around, and I think we will continue to be a threat to win the district and region from now on. The seniors did a fantastic job of leading the team all season long and the examples they set for the younger players will be invaluable in the future," Duncan said.
The last time the Braves had won a district title senior starters Colton Perry, Scotty Kelley, Jonathan Cain and Josh Cummins were eighth graders.
Hopefully, it won't be that long before the Braves capture another title and get another opportunity at becoming a baseball power.
"I want to thank the fans for all the support they have given us," Duncan said after hearing and seeing fans wearing blue and gold after the Braves dispatched Simon Kenton 5-4 in the 32nd District final.
And those fans, several of whom rushed the field to help the Braves celebrate, gave their team a standing ovation.
"I had a vision of us running out on the field winning the 32nd District championship," Duncan said.
However, winning and storming the field were not in the cards at the region tournament, despite Grant County's ability to score first. In the end, North Oldham outplayed the Braves when it mattered most.
"We put in so much hard work and dedication into the season that Im still in shock that our season is over," Duncan said."The boys were responsible for all our wins and unfortunately, I'm responsible for our six losses."
And while his team was held to two hits after jumping out to a quick lead, Duncan pointed to himself, saying he was responsible for his team's losses all season, including against North Oldham.
And while the fact that the season is officially over and that is hard to swallow, fans and the team should not forget to reflect on how far this program came since Opening Day on March 25.
Paul Gable is the sports editor for the Grant County News. He can be reached by e-mailing firstname.lastname@example.org or by calling 824-3343.