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Ontario Warriors preparing for Division II regional semifinal baseball game

Jun 19, 2023

ONTARIO — The Ontario Warriors are turning back the clock.

And they are channeling their championship past which is bringing hardware to the trophy case.

What started as a random rummage through the Ontario baseball storage cage has turned into good luck threads that has the Warriors playing in the Division II regional tournament for the first time since 2018 when they made a trip to the regional title game.

Last season, Gage and Carter Weaver were digging through some old boxes and stumbled upon some old game uniforms that belonged to the Warriors baseball team back in the early-mid 2000s, the era when jersey vests were the fashion statement all over baseball.

So, the drug out the boxes and pleaded to Ontario coach Mike Ellis to let them wear the throwback jerseys for a game or two. The old school cut-off sleeve gray vests had Ontario scripted across the chest with the end of the last O sweeping all the way under.

Ellis obliged under one condition; before the Warriors donned the retro threads, they had to win a few more games first. So, they went to work winning six consecutive games before being allowed to wear them against Triway, a 7-6 loss by the way.

"What led to us actually wearing them was Drew Yetter getting swoll and looking like the Hulk," Ontario junior pitcher Peyton Dzugan said. "We thought he would look good in the sleeveless. We were playing at Triway last year and it was our first really hot day so we asked coach if we could wear them. Of course, we couldn't wear them without an undershirt, but they kind of became a team favorite after that. We wore them a couple of times this year and decided to wear them for our sectional final and ended up winning so we tried it again and again and we will wear them again. It feels like our collective good-luck charm right now."

Fast-forward to this season and the Warriors played a couple of games in the throwbacks during the regular season with mixed results. So, they figured they would give them one more shot in the sectional championship game against Perkins where they knocked off the No. 2 seed 6-5 in nine innings.

From then on, the jerseys would stay.

"Gage and I were at school one day and messing around in the baseball storage cage and looking at all the old jerseys and we thought they looked really cool," Carter Weaver said. "We pulled the box out and asked Coach Ellis if we could wear them because they were sick. He made us a deal that if we started playing better, we could wear them. So, we wore them once last year and everyone hated them. They are so baggy, but this year, Gage and Colten wanted to wear them against Perkins in the tournament and we won so we just kept wearing them."

The Warriors wore them when they exacted some revenge on Shelby with a 7-2 win in the district semifinals after losing to the Whippets 9-1 and 9-3 just two weeks before. They then wore them again in the 5-2 district championship win over Clyde on Saturday afternoon.

"They got into the storage cage one day last year and pulled them out and wanted to wear them," Ontario coach Mike Ellis said. "During the tournament, we broke them back out so now, it is the only jersey they want to wear. I am old school, so I like them. They may wish they were a little lighter because those things are made really well. I love them though."

What's not to love? The Warriors have outscored their tournament opponents 17-14 and claimed the program's sixth district championship joining teams from 1990, 1994, 2011, 2013 and 2018. The 94 squad won the state title that year.

So, the Warriors are hoping to bring back some the magic that has been left in the jerseys. The 2008 Warriors won the North Central Conference championship in them after all.

"I think it is more of a superstition thing, but if you look on paper, we are playing better in them," Ellis said. "Going into the year, I knew we had the talent and had a talented group so I revamped the schedule and made it much tougher. Our first 12 games had nine state-ranked teams at the time of our games. Now, we are playing for a state title and you can credit it to lucky jerseys or how much our schedule prepared us. Whatever it was, it is working."

And the jerseys are working like a charm. The Warriors play St. Marys Memorial at 2 p.m. on Thursday in Bowling Green in the Division II regional semifinals and you better believe the gray retros are making the trip, too, despite most of the Warriors actually not caring for the jerseys in the first place.

"If you ask the guys in the dugout, most of them will say we don't look good in them at all," Dzugan said. "But I honestly think it just started with us wanting to look like big guys and we started winning in them and it leads to a title. We will take it."

Carter Weaver admits the only reason to keep wearing the jerseys now is to not upset the baseball Gods.

"It is more of a superstition right now because no one actually likes wearing them," Weaver said. "Everyone got in an argument about what jerseys we were going to wear against Perkins so, in our players-only group chat, Gage texted everyone and told them that Coach Ellis said we were wearing gray when he never said what we were wearing, but everyone believed him so we wore them."

Good call, Gage. The threads have seen some drama. Only those who wore them in the past can attest to what they have seen back in the day, but since May 19, they have helped the Warriors complete comebacks in every tournament game since the sectional final including being down 1-0 to Perkins after three innings down 2-0 to Shelby after the first and into the fifth and down 1-0 to Clyde in the district finals after three innings.

Lucky or not, the Warriors aren't about to chance it as they look to win a regional championship.

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Twitter: @JakeFurr11