The following is an article written about OH Baseball written by the Palm Beach Post
With the Florida High School Athletic Association canceling the remainder of the spring sports season, The Palm Beach Post is introducing a semi-regular series in which we honor spring teams that had state title aspirations or a large senior class.
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This was supposed to be a different kind of season for the Olympic Heights baseball team.
It had been bullied by opponents in Class 6A District 13, but last year, the Lions finally broke through, finishing 13-9, their first winning season in 21 years.
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So, heading into this season, there was a feeling around the team that instead of being bullied, they would be the bullies.
“The attitude was like, ‘we are going to rule our district,’ ” senior pitcher Patrick DeClemente said. “We had been the underdogs for so long, and we wanted to prove that we were a top baseball team and prove what we established last season.”
However, like every high school sports team across the country, Olympic Heights was ultimately bullied by a force out of its control: the coronavirus pandemic.
The Lions’ hopes and dreams were officially dashed on April 20 after the Florida High School Athletic Association canceled the remainder of spring sports. The season had been on hold since March 13.
The news was especially devastating for a team that had started to turn its season around after a slow start.
Olympic Heights had one of the toughest schedules to start the season and lost six of its first seven games, including to perennial powerhouses Stoneman Douglas and Palm Beach Central, which were nationally ranked in the MaxPrep poll.
Coach Casey Beck said the squad’s early struggles could be chalked up to the seniors’ interests being out of whack.
“We had kids that were excited about signing to go to college,” Beck said. “I think a lot of the individual stuff was taking over more of the team stuff.”
The tide began to turn on March 6, however. The Lions crushed Glades Central 10-2 and then five days later, knocked off Forest Hill 11-7.
“The leaders, like myself, really had to step up and I think we did,” senior outfielder Nick Pompile said. “Everything started to click, and the chemistry got better because in the beginning, we had some people who were not 100% on board.”
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But rumors started to swirl before the next game against Santaluces on March 13 that this could be the last game of the season. Before the first pitch, Beck found out from athletic director Chris Holly that the season was being suspended.
Beck chose to wait to tell his players the heartbreaking news until after the game, but many players already knew.
“We all kind of realized this is pretty much it since everything was shut down,” senior outfielder Cameron Moss said. “That was a tough game to play. We were all super emotional.”
Beck knew it would be a sad night, so he tried to get them in the right mindset before the game.
“I told them, “look if this is it, then you need to focus,′ ” he said. “You’ve got to have your mind focused on today, not what could be because you know if and buts were candy and nuts, we’d all have a Merry Christmas.”
Olympic Heights won that final game, 8-2 in Boca Raton, bringing its final record to 4-7.
“We were really just coming into our own as a team,” Moss said. “There was just a ton of emotion because some of us would play baseball in college, but most of us (seniors) were done with baseball.
“Obviously, I wanted to think we were coming back, but my gut was telling me that this is it.”
The news was especially disheartening for DeClemente, Moss, Pompile and the other seniors on the team: Alec Mursuli, Gavin Cabreja, Justin Cooper, Josh Recore, Dylan Jacobs, Ryan Jacobs, Michael Greff and Anthony Pichardo.
Many of them had been playing together since they were in first and second grade, Beck said, and now in the blink of an eye, their time together was over.
“Beck always says you don’t realize how much you miss it until it’s gone and that is definitely true,” DeClemente said. “The last time we saw them was for like a mini celebration and now it’s like we’ll never be in the same place again, wearing a Lions jersey, and that’s a harsh reality.”
That mini celebration was a parade in Boynton Beach put on by the moms of the seniors. DeClemente said it wasn’t as sweet as having a senior night, but it did bring some much-needed closure.
Beck has tried to keep the team engaged with a Google Classroom page where he has been able to teach the team baseball fundamentals and about MLB greats such as Mike Trout and Ken Griffey Jr.
“You’d be shocked how few of them actually watch and know about professional baseball,” he said.
A few of the seniors will continue their baseball careers in college. Pompile will be attending Frontier Community College in Illinois, Moss will be attending Cleveland Community College in Ohio, Mursuli is headed for Palm Beach Atlantic and Ryan Jacobs for South Florida.
As for the returning players, Beck still has supreme confidence they’ll be back next season.
“We have some talented freshmen coming in next season, and we will have six seniors,” Beck said. “I also think, given how this season ended, we will be more ready than ever in 2021.”