Community-backed Hiland multisport training facility goes from dream to reality

    Posted on April 30, 2016

    by Dave Mast


    That is music to the ears of the committee members who helped engineer the construction of the newly dedicated Hiland High School multisport training facility beside Lehman Field.

    A dream became an idea, the idea turned into a plan, the plan became action and on Friday, April 22, one day before the building’s dedication ceremony, state officials said that one word that the committee was waiting to hear. The building was officially ready.

    Occupancy was achieved.

    “Boy did that word ever sound sweet,” said Kevin Miller, one of the committee members who worked above and beyond to make the facility dream a reality.

    On Saturday, April 23 at Lehman Field, prior to the Hawks’ baseball game with Canton South, a lengthy list of donors were honored, a list of private donors who made things take shape and evolved into a stunningly beautiful and incredibly useful multipurpose facility.

    “On behalf of the student-athletes, I want to thank you all from the bottom of my heart for all you have done for us,” said Gibson. “This is a dream come true for a lot of people.”

    Not only does the baseball team utilize the facility, so too do area softball and youth baseball teams, and the facility will also be used for golf and soccer.

    “We’ve never been able to do this before, and it affords us the opportunity to train the kids better, to improve their skills and show them what hard work is all about,” Gibson said.

    Gibson said Kevin Miller’s tenacity, Austin Miller’s working knowledge of construction and Mark Coblentz’s gift for connecting with donors were all a huge part of how the whole process ran smoothly from start to finish. All three joined Gibson on the facility committee.

    Kevin Miller, who was in on the project from the start, said the innovation of Gibson was what spurred the committee into action, and Gibson’s vision grew to something more than that when their plan of action jumped to fast-forward.

    Once finished, the building began paying immediate dividends, as Hiland players and youth organizations from around the area began utilizing the indoor facility. There has been a nonstop parade of athletes perfecting their swings and taking throws in ever since it was available in late February.

    However, this special day was set aside to celebrate not the players but those who helped the players realize something special.

    One by one, representatives from local businesses that donated to the facility project were announced and honored. The donors walked through a gauntlet of Hiland baseball players and the coaching staff, accepting their thanks and gratitude for making the effort to help the program grow.
    “We could have asked so many other people to come and be recognized, but the list would have been endless,” said Kevin Miller, who was on the panning committee for the new facility.

    The list of major donors included: Killbuck Savings Bank, Swiss Valley Furniture, Melway Paving, Berlin Contractors, Keim Concrete, RNR Enterprise, Dean and Linda Beachy, Lee and Ruby Miller, Vern and Leah Shetler, MRE Electric, the Hiland Athletic Booster Club, Commercial & Savings Bank, Kaufman Realty, ProVia, Walnut Creek Cheese, Sauder’s Amish Country Eggs, Holmes Lumber, Holmes Excavating, Safe and Sound, First Federal Bank, Sandler Sales Training, Al and Ruth Yoder, Forever Lawn, Ohio Dutch Construction, Tekton Engineering, Jerry and Lisa Yoder, Hummel Insurance, Eli Miller Custom Homes, Eco-Seal, Holmes By-Products, B&L Trucking, Yoder Custom Fence, Critchfield Law Office, Troyer Cheese, Sugarcreek Concrete, Grasshopper Lawn Maintenance, Schlabach Excavating and Superior Floors.

    Considering the project really took flight six months ago, it is an amazing feat that it came together so quickly. Unusually mild winter weather helped the process, but it was the graciousness of donors and the willingness to provide labor and materials that sent project into fast-forward. By late February, the teams were in the cages hitting, throwing and fielding.

    “This has been an incredible community effort,” said Austin Miller, committee member who was involved throughout the fundraising and building process. ‘Tom Gibson was the driving force behind the idea. Once we got this under way, we decided there was no time like today to get going. I think the best thing that ever happened was when someone told us we could never get it done. It took off from there, and it was the help of a lot of people. Everything kind of fell into place.”

    Now complete, the building will not only serve as a way for area youngsters to improve their game, it also serves as a standard for young people to recognize the value and importance of community support.

    “In this whole process, the community has been unbelievable,” Miller said. “There are several things I hope get driven home. One is, this community is unbelievable.

    Everybody got behind this thing. The second thing is, we have kids out here that got to see firsthand how it works to be a business in a community. They will have income, and have the digression as to what they are going to do with it. I am hopeful that this will inspire these kids to do the same thing at some point, and that once they have the opportunity to give back, that they do that.”

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    Hiland drops a tough one at Division 1 North Canton Hoover

    Posted on April 30, 2016

    By John Mast

    In what constitutes a tough week for the Hiland baseball program, the Hawks have gone 2-2 so far with a hard-fought 3-0 loss at North Canton Hoover Wednesday.

    In a well-pitched game from both sides, Hiland’s Derek Miller was matched up against Division I Kent State bound Tyler Drabick. Although both pitchers threw well, each team still had its chances.

    The Vikings were first on the scoreboard when they pushed across a run in the second. With a runner on third and one out, Alex Nicholson popped a fly ball into shallow right-center. Hiland’s strong-armed right fielder, Mitch Massaro charged hard to make the catch, but his momentum caused him to tumble forward as he struggled to right himself for a throw to the plate and North Canton grabbed a quick 1-0 lead.

    They would score again in the third, as three consecutive sharp singles to left by the meat of the order made it 2-0.

    But the Hawks mounted a comeback and loaded the bases with nobody out in the top of the fifth. But a slick 5-2-3 double play and a line shot right at the first baseman off the bat of Bryan Yoder with runners still on second and third allowed Drabick to escape with his shutout intact.

    “Eric (Mullet) hits a hard ball to third, and Bryan hits a smash to first, but that’s baseball,” said Hiland head coach Tom Gibson. “Hopefully, we get those hole shots in tournament.”

    Even with the deflating scoreless fifth, Hiland still wasn’t done.

    In the top of the sixth they again loaded the bases with one out. Freshman Andy Miller looped one down the left field line over the head of third baseman Ben Kiesling. As Kiesling and shortstop Jared Seeman gave chase, they converged on the ground just inside the line in shallow left. Massaro broke from third, then hesitated, not seeing the ball come clear of the scrum. But by the time he realized the ball was free, it was too late and he was forced out at the plate.

    Hiland had a chance to return the favor in the bottom half, when Hoover loaded the bases with one out. Miller induced a bouncer to Eric Mullet at third, who whipped it home for the force and Bryan Yoder pegged it to first just late, allowing the Vikings to squeak out another run on a bases loaded walk for a 3-0 lead to seal it.

    “We had our chances and hit balls right at them,” said Gibson. “We had three legitimate scoring opportunities and the ball didn’t fall our way. Derek pitched a great game, he kept us right in it…we just couldn’t catch a break.”

    Miller threw a complete game and suffered a tough loss, surrendering the three runs on eight hits, walking one and striking out two. Unfortunately, he was outdone by Drabick, who threw seven innings of four-hit ball. But Hiland wasn’t overwhelmed by the hard-throwing ace, as Drabick only struck out two while issuing two free passes.

    Hoover improves to 10-6 with the victory. With the loss, the Hawks fall to 16-2 on the year. Their game at D-III third-ranked Chippewa Thursday was postponed due to weather. Hiland travels to top-flight IVC foe Sandy Valley on Friday.

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    Hiland wakes up to down Malvern 9-3

    Posted on April 27, 2016

    by John Mast

    This one had all the makings of a laugher. First-place Hiland was hosting Malvern, which has struggled mightily this year in the IVC.

    When the Hawks took advantage of a hit batter and two walks to start the game for a 3-0 early lead, the game took on the tone just as expected. And when Hiland pegged on two more in the third for a 5-0 bulge, it looked as if the game could end quickly.

    But in the fourth, pitcher Cordell Miller hit a cold patch and walked the first two he faced, and was relieved by Damian Kandel. The Hornets took advantage of three walks, three hits and a Hiland error in the inning to parlay it into a three run rally to pull within 5-3.

    And no one was laughing.

    But Kandel settled in and threw strikes, and the offense came back to life to pull away for a 9-3 victory, albeit not the lopsided win expected.

    Leading 5-3 in the fourth, it looked as if Hiland would answer, as Braden Mast and Bryan Yoder both singled to start the inning, but the rally stalled and the lead stayed at two. But in the fifth, the Hawks broke through again when, after a Cam Miller walk and Zach Coblentz bunt single, Mast drove a shot to right that was biting toward the line for a triple, driving in two to get the lead back to four.

    Hiland would put it away in the sixth, when Derek Miller walked, Andy Miller singled, and Kandel reached on a wild third strike. A Cam Miller sac fly brought one home and a Scott Ropp grounder drove in another to give the Hawks a commanding 9-3 win.

    After a HBP and a couple of walks in the first inning, the damage was done on singles by Tyson Gingerich and Andy Miller, who had three hits on the day, two of which produced runs.

    Mitch Massaro led off the third inning with a double to center and advanced to third on a passed ball. With one out freshman Andy Miller smoked one up the middle for his second RBI of the game. Miller then stole second and came home on a Cordell Miller line shot to right center to give the Hawks a little breathing room for a 5-0 lead.

    Miller had a mixed day on the mound to get the win for Hiland. The sophomore surrendered three runs (two earned) on only three hits but walked five and stuck out four in his 3 1/3 innings. Kandel held the Hornets scoreless in 3 2/3 innings of work, giving up four hits, walking one and striking out one. Potts went the distance but took the loss for Malvern, giving up nine runs on 10 hits, walking eight and striking out three.

    Offensively, Myers had three hits and Mullins two, with Majestic adding a double for the Hornets. Hiland had a big day from freshman Andy Miller, who had three singles while driving in two and scoring two. Mast also provided a spark with two hits, the biggest being the two-run triple.

    With the win, Hiland improves to 16-1 (11-0 IVC). They travel to North Canton Hoover on Wednesday for a non-league clash.

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    Hiland back to winning ways with victory over Tigers

    Posted on April 26, 2016

    by John Mast

    After suffering their first loss of the season in disappointing fashion at Canal Park Sunday, the Hiland Hawks baseball team got back in the win column with a 7-1 win over the visiting Strasburg Tigers Monday in Berlin.

    With a stiff win blowing to dead center, Hiland took advantage of its opportunities early, as they scored three runs in the bottom of the first and never looked back. Eric Mullet hit a one-out single before Bryan Yoder launched a deep fly ball into the jet stream toward center. The ball carried and glanced off the glove just over the head of Strasburg’s Gino Schupach. Mitch Massaro followed that by ripping a 2-RBI single just inside the bag at third to give the Hawks the lead. Kobe Miller’s RBI single to right made it 3-0 after one.

    But Strasburg battled right back in the second, when Matt Neidenthal stroked a one-out single and his brother Mitch hammered a shot to the gap for an RBI double. But it would be the only time the Tigers could push across a run, despite getting runners into scoring position in the third, fourth and sixth off of Hiland starter Kobe Miller.

    It was a strong start for Miller, considering his previous appearances have been in relief this season for the Hawks. With six solid innings, Miller got the win as he held Strasburg to one run on seven hits, while walking three and striking out three.

    “I thought Kobe pitched good under tough conditions,” said Hiland’s Tom Gibson of Miller’s performance with the stiff wind in his face.

    Derek Miller closed it out for the Hawks in the seventh, striking out two to go with a couple of walks.
    Hiland added two in the third on four consecutive singles by Massaro, Tyson Gingerich, Braden Mast and Kobe Miller to widen the lead to 5-1, with the last run coming on a pretty drag bunt single by Zach Coblentz.

    The Tigers got four innings from starter Jerrett McCracken, but he was touch up by the Hawks to the tune of six runs (four earned) on ten hits. Mitch Spinell pitched well in relief, surrendering one run on three Hiland hits.

    “I thought it was a good comeback win from what we did yesterday (vs. SVSM),” said Gibson. “I like what we did on defense, and we hit the ball pretty good, but we still left a lot of runs out there.”
    The defense Gibson referred to was again error-free. Chris Kline ranged toward the hole at short to start a pretty 6-4-3 double play, Braden Mast made a smart backhand grab at first base on a ground ball and Bryan Yoder picked off a straying Tiger base runner at second to end a threat. The clean defense and a more accurate night from the bump likely made for a more enjoyable viewing experience for Gibson.

    Looking forward to the state tournament, which has its sectional drawing on Sunday, May 1, Gibson was hoping the night will lead to bigger and better things.

    “We left guys on again, but that’s baseball,” he said. “I’d rather leave them on in a game like tonight, then we’ll be due to not leave them on when it comes to the tournament. Hopefully, we can be more successful when that time comes.”

    Hiland has been rolling on with that goal in mind all season, now standing at 15-1 (10-0 IVC) on the season, and host Malvern at home Tuesday before embarking on a difficult three-game road stretch against North Canton Hoover, Chippewa and Sandy Valley to wrap up the week.

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    Hitless, errorless inning produces three runs in Irish win over Hawks

    Posted on April 25, 2016

    by John Mast

    It was the best of times, it was the worst of times.

    The Hiland Hawks baseball team suffered its first loss of the season in somewhat ugly fashion, dropping a 3-2 decision to St. Vincent St. Mary Sunday at Canal Park.

    The Hawks played an errorless game but not a clean one. They walked an alarming seven Irish and hit two, in addition to having one base runner picked off and another doubled up on a line drive.
    Needless to say, they should have won this game.

    Hiland struggled the first time through the order against SVSM lefty Mitch Whalen. But they seemed to catch up to him the second time through. In the top of the third inning Zach Coblentz led off with a walk and Eric Mullet singled to right to put two on. A wild pitch moved both runners into scoring position before Bryan Yoder reached base and drove in a run on a grounder to second that was thrown late to the plate. Mitch Massaro’s sac fly to center gave the Hawks a 2-0 edge, and they then loaded the bases but could get no more.

    Meanwhile, Mitch Massaro started off very strong, allowing only three base runners through the first four innings, but lost his command as fatigue set in and the walks mounted. He showed signs of tiring in the fourth when the Irish mounted a threat with a walk and a HBP, but Massaro escaped without damage. But when he walked the first two in the fateful fifth, head coach Tom Gibson didn’t hesitate to remove his weary hurler and brought in Yoder.

    It didn’t get much better for Hiland, as Yoder walked the first man he faced, loading the bases. Chris Kline made a nice play in the hole at short to get an out at second, but a run came home. A passed ball brought in the tying run and a ground ball put the Irish ahead for good.

    If you’re keeping score at home, the important stats of the inning: 3 runs, 0 hits, 3 walks, 1 passed ball, 1 wild pitch, 0 errors. That’s right, three runs with no hits and no errors.

    You don’t see that every day.

    For a matter of fact, the Irish only had one hit the entire game, and that was off the bat of Colin Nolte in the bottom of the first inning. Hiland didn’t fare a lot better with the bats, managing only five hits itself, but it was the timing of those hits that mattered most. The Hawks stranded two in the second, three in the third and two more in the fourth. In addition, they had two on in the fifth but Coblentz was doubled up on a smashed line drive to second off the bat of Kline, as well as getting a man picked off with one out in the seventh.

    “I’m disappointed in how we played today,” said Gibson. “Too many mistakes…we beat ourselves.”
    Oddly enough, Hiland played a very clean game in the field, but lost in about the ugliest way possible.

    Massaro surrendered two runs in his four innings of work on only one hit with four walks and two strikeouts. Yoder took the loss in relief, getting tagged for the go-ahead run while not surrendering a hit but walking three and striking out two.

    Tyson Gingerich led the Hawks with a pair of hits.

    The loss drops Hiland to 14-1 on the season, with a full week ahead, including a trip to engage powerful North Canton Hoover on Wednesday.

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