Justin Merryman was missed.
One player doesn't make a team at any level of play in baseball. Never has and never will. But if the Marietta College senior standout - who was the 2007 Mideast Regional Tournament Most Valuable Player in Strongsville - had been able to play in Adrian, Mich., the Pioneers just might have improved their chances of advancing to the 2009 NCAA Division III World Series in Appleton, Wisc.
As it turned out, of course, Wooster edged MC, 4-3, in the regional championship game at Nicolay Field Monday, and will now be competing in the Dairyland State Friday.
Merryman was a very versatile player, and before bowing out with a medical condition after 24 games this spring, the southpaw could be penciled in the lineup as an outfielder, first baseman, or pitcher.
He gave MC head coach Brian Brewer a lot of options.
Merryman was a productive and clutch hitter, batting .400 with 24 runs scored. He made contact and had a knack for getting on base.
When Marietta College played and lost to Wooster, 11-10, in 11 innings during regular-season play at Art Murray Field on April 1, Merryman had three hits and drove in two runs.
The crafty left-hander wasn't too shabby on the hill, either, compiling a 1-0 record with five saves and a 3.31 ERA in nine appearances on the hill.
He was also a leader, and on a relatively young Pioneer squad, that was a big plus.
Thing is, Merryman's more than just a great baseball player. Last week, the Pioneer student athlete, who owns a 3-plus GPA in the classroom, received the prestigous Clyde A. Lamb Award at a banquet in Worthington, just north of Columbus.
Right now, the important thing is Merryman's health. Let's all pray that everything turns out fine and dandy for the young man from New Philadelphia.
'Etta Express future looks very bright
In Monday's Mideast Regional showdown at Adrian College, 15 Marietta College players saw action. Of those, three - Cameron Cimino, Chris Stewart, and Brennan Cribbins - were seniors.
The remainder included five freshmen (Kirby Becker, Niko Stanislav, Tim Saunders, Will Middleton and Kyle Lindquist), four sophomores (Chris Dowdell, Casey Levens, John Snyder, and Jordan Thompson) and three juniors (Dan Jones, Chris Beatty and Matt DeSico).
Needless to say, with so many expected to return next season, the future indeed looks very bright for Etta Express baseball.
Bright enough for another Pioneer postseason run in 2010?
You can almost count on it.
Ron Johnston is the Marietta Times sports editor and can be reached at 376-5441, or at firstname.lastname@example.org