“I’m cold, but it’s a good cold,” said Eyink, who’s in his 10th season with the program. “I’ll do that every night if this is how it’s going to go.”
The Indians (23-0) beat rival Northeastern 4-1 on Thursday to clinch their first Ohio Heritage Conference championship since joining the conference 20 years ago. Mechanicsburg hadn’t won a league title in baseball in more than 56 years.
“It’s been a goal of ours since I took over 10 years ago,” said Eyink, whose team is ranked second in the Division III state coaches poll. “We wanted numbers to go on that OHC championship banner. We finally got that and we couldn’t have done it with a better group of kids.”
In 2019, the Indians won a district title, reaching the Division IV regional semifinals for the first time in school history. The Indians fell to eventual state semifinalist Minster 13-2 at Carleton Davidson Stadium in Springfield.
With its entire roster coming back last spring, Mechanicsburg was hoping to make another postseason run until the COVID-19 pandemic canceled the entire 2020 season.
“It goes back to missing last year knowing that we had a great group coming back after a miracle run really in 2019,” Eyink said. “I don’t think anyone expected us to be where we were at. To come back with these guys two years later, grown up and matured, it’s special. Mechanicsburg has been waiting a long time for this.”
The Indians are led by a tight-knit class of seven seniors who have been playing together since T-ball.
“It’s been a really fun ride so far,” said first baseman Lane Casey. “We’re all so close and I think that’s why the season has been going the way it’s been going so far. It’s been a fun ride.”
After the win on Thursday, the seniors were quick to remember their teammates who didn’t get the chance to play for a league title last spring due to the pandemic.
“We lost a lot of our guys we’d been playing with since we were younger,” said shortstop Brooks Tom. “It feels good to get one for us, but also for them in a way.”
The Indians have been stellar both on the mound and at the plate. Casey and junior Jake Edwards rank second in the OHC in wins at six each, while each have struck out 37 batters. Tom has four wins with 35 strikeouts and a 0.462 earned run average.
Indians junior Aaron Conley leads with OHC in both home runs (5) and RBIs (46). Senior Deacon Morgan ranks fifth in the OHC with a .463 batting average, while Tom ranks sixth at .452 and ranks second in RBIs with 30.
Mechanicsburg moved up to Division III this spring and will be joined in the sectional with several top teams, including D-III No. 1 Benjamin Logan, Northeastern and Shawnee among others.
“There’s teams there that can play with anybody on any given night,” Eyink said. “It’s exciting. We’ve talked about it already. It’s going to be one of those things where you can’t take anything for granted.”
With a year lost to the pandemic, the Indians will be extra motivated to keep playing as long as possible, he said.
“These guys have been playing together since they were five years old,” Eyink said. “To take away a season from them was painful and they’re living up to what they said they were going to do when it was stripped last year — get down to business, work our tails off in the season and show up and play.”