In 1999, the last time the Columbus East baseball program won a sectional title, it’s likely that none of the current team members had even been potty trained yet.
Some of them hadn’t even been born.
This year’s Olympians, though, are ready to put an end to that drought. They’ll try to do so this week by winning the Bloomington South Sectional, which begins this evening.
East, which was 16-7-1 going into Tuesday night’s game against Whiteland, has an opening-round bye and will play in a Friday night semifinal against East Central.
Last year, the Olympians lost in the semifinal round against Bloomington South, just after knocking off rival Columbus North in a first-round game.
East head coach Jonathan Gratz said he believes his squad can use that setback as motivation this postseason.
“It’s just a reminder that you’ve got to take everything one game at a time,” he said. “Nothing’s handed to you in the tournament; you’ve got to go out and take it and get the job done yourself.”
The Olympians have done a pretty good job of getting the job done most of this season. They got off to an 8-1 start, with the lone loss a 1-0 defeat at perennial state power Cathedral, and rose as high as No. 6 in the Class 4A state rankings.
Since that hot start, East has been up and down, enduring winless stretches of three and four games before closing the season with four consecutive victories.
Senior Kyle Weiss said the team’s confidence has remained high throughout.
“We’ve had a little trouble in the past few weeks,” he conceded, “but I feel like … we’ve got some momentum going into sectionals.”
The two Columbus schools come into the tournament as the sectional favorites, at least on paper, and the Olympians have the added confidence that comes with winning a game on North’s home field. East beat the Bull Dogs, 5-3, on May 6.
Of course, beating North last spring in the sectional opener didn’t bear much fruit — but this year’s Olympians have chosen to take the disappointment of last season and channel it into more positive energy.
“I think this year we’ve been more motivated as a team as we have been in the past,” senior Joey Back said.
The key, the team says, is to avoid getting overconfident or complacent. Having tasted disappointment in the past, the East players know how important it is to focus on one opponent at a time.
“It’s win, survive and move on,” senior Nick Andrie said. “Every day, you’ve got to come out and compete, and you never know when you’re going to get a chance to make a play, so you’ve got to come make a play.”
Make enough of them, and the Olympians could potentially wrap up a title that’s almost literally eluded them for a lifetime.
A look ahead at this week’s area baseball sectionals:
Class 4A Bloomington South Sectional
Bloomington South vs. Bloomington North, 6 p.m.
Columbus North vs. Shelbyville, 8 p.m.
Today’s winners, 6 p.m.
East Central vs. Columbus East, 8 p.m.
Championship, 7 p.m.
Favorite: Columbus East
Dark horse: Columbus North
Class 4A Floyd Central Sectional
Seymour vs. Jeffersonville, 5 p.m.
Jennings County vs. Floyd Central, 7 p.m.
Today’s winners, noon
Bedford North Lawrence vs. New Albany, 3 p.m.
Championship, 2 p.m.
Dark horse: New Albany
Class 3A Sullivan Sectional
Sullivan vs. Edgewood, 5:30 p.m.
Northview vs. West Vigo, 7:30 p.m.
Today’s winners, 5 p.m.
Owen Valley vs. Brown County, 7 p.m.
Championship, 6 p.m.
Favorite: West Vigo
Dark horse: Edgewood
Class A Shawe Memorial Sectional
Rising Sun vs. Hauser, 5 p.m.
Shawe Memorial vs. Oldenburg Academy, 7 p.m.
Today’s winners, 11 a.m.
Jac-Cen-Del vs. South Decatur, 1 p.m.
Championship, 7 p.m.
Favorite: Rising Sun
Dark horse: Jac-Cen-Del
Class A Morristown Sectional
Greenwood Christian vs. Edinburgh, 6 p.m.
Southwestern (Shelby) vs. Waldron, 10 a.m.
Morristown vs. today’s winner, noon
Championship, 10 a.m.
Favorite: Greenwood Christian
Dark horse: Edinburgh