May 03, 2012 2:00 AM
Now that the national-record winning streak has ended, it’s time to fully appreciate what the Portsmouth High School baseball team accomplished.
Eighty-nine consecutive wins is an incredible feat on many levels. Baseball is not a sport conducive to success of this nature. Long winning streaks are more common in sports such as basketball or football, where high-powered teams can demolish weaker opponents by scoring tons of points. In baseball, poor teams beat strong teams all the time, and the reason is usually pitching. The weaker team’s ace pitcher may steal a game, or the stronger team’s pitcher may have a bad day or one bad inning that decides the outcome.
Baseball has many other ways to break your heart, too. Ask any Red Sox fan who followed the team prior to 2004. A bad throw, an unlucky bounce or a mistake by an umpire can cost you a game. The Clippers clearly had superior talent and worked harder than everyone else to develop their skills, and they amazingly avoided these cruel fates for nearly five years. they won eight one-run games along the way.
Before losing 5-4 to St. Thomas Aquinas on Monday, the Clippers had not been defeated since the 2007 Division II state tournament. The winning streak included undefeated Division II state championship seasons in 2008, 2009, 2010 and 2011. The Clippers were 23-0 in 2008, 20-0 the next three years, then won six games to start the 2012 season.
The streak was accomplished in high school sports, where teams lose players to graduation every year, which speaks to the continuous flow of talent coming through Portsmouth.
Portsmouth’s vaunted little League and youth programs deserve much of the credit. How much talent does Portsmouth youth baseball produce? St. Thomas senior Jordan Bean, who doubled in the tying run and scored the winning run against Portsmouth on Monday, was the star pitcher for the Portsmouth team that reached the 2006 little League World Series.
Past PHS players Nate Jones, Mike Fransoso and Mike Montville — now all playing college baseball — all talked to the Herald after Monday’s loss. they were all part of the winning streak, and they expressed admiration for the current PHS players.
“These guys were dealing with the pressure of national media,” Jones said. “We didn’t have that. It says a lot about their strength in dealing with it.”
PHS coach Tim Hopley’s leadership has been instrumental, sticking to his one-game-at-a-time approach no matter how much hype surrounded his team. when Portsmouth first set the national record last season, the story was covered by ESPN and media outlets across the country. The story made national headlines again last summer, when Martensdale-St. Marys of Iowa broke Portsmouth’s record, and last week when Portsmouth passed the Iowa school to regain the record.
Even with the streak over, Hopley has not wavered. “There’s not one single thing we’re going to do differently today that we haven’t done in the last hundred or so practices since the last (loss),” Hopley said Tuesday. “Like I told the guys, (Monday) is not going to define us. We’ll be defined by what happens from here on out.”
That’s the absolute best approach for a coach and players with a long season ahead of them. The rest of us can look forward to the Portsmouth-St. Thomas rematch May 21, to a potential fifth-straight state title in June, and take time out now to congratulate the Clippers, whose place in high school sports history is already secure.
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