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Clay’s 1979 Class AAA state championship baseball team, along with four athletes, are being inducted into the school’s athletic hall of fame.

The Clay High Alumni & Friends Association along with the Clay Athletic Boosters Club is joining together to have the Distinguished Alumni and Athletic Hall of Fame at a banquet on Sept. 12. University of Toledo women’s basketball coach Tricia Cullop will be keynote speaker.

Also being inducted as baseball standout Stephen Berger (1994), football standout Ross Graham (2004), basketball star Jerry Kettinger (1976) and football player Todd Schiavone (1981).

Berger was first team All-Great Lake League and first team all-district in baseball and Academic All-GLL. He holds the single season record for stolen bases and singles. Berger represented Ohio in the 1994 Olympic Festival. He earned a baseball scholarship to Ohio University. Also, he was chosen by the Detroit Tigers in the 1994 Major League Baseball draft.

Graham’s junior football season at Clay was one to remember. He was first team AII-GLL, first team all district, first team All-Blade, first team All-Press, Defensive Player of the Year in the GLL, and Press Defensive Player of the Year.

907Clay baseball79
Bottom Row (L-R) Joe Zargo, Joe Miller, Arnie Cowell, Jeff Socie, Steve Stuller, Joe Westenkirchner, Gary Drier, Kurt Titgemeyer,
Keith Belcik and Glen Riley (batboy). Top Row (L-R) Dave Breese, Dave Scharer, Jay Moran, Jeff Thompson, Lou Reiner, Rick
Smith, Rodney Achter, Rick Molnar, Roger Achter, Mark Dansack and Coach Dick Kandik.

Graham also earned honorable mention all-state and finished the season with 168 tackles. His senior year in football was cut short by an injury, but he excelled on the baseball diamond. Graham earned first team All Toledo City League and was City League Player of the Year, first team all-district, and earned All-Ohio recognition.

Kettinger lettered three years in basketball. With Kettinger as a starter, Clay had an overall record of 32-4. Kettinger started for the only undefeated team in the history of the school, even more remarkable since he was the only junior. His senior year he earned Player of the Year in the GLL and first team all-district. His district all star team played the Soviet Union at Savage Hall. Kettinger also played for the Ohio All Stars which traveled and played the best from other states (including Michigan, New York, Indiana).

Schiavone received first team all-league and all-district honors in football as a senior. He earned honorable mention all-state. Schiavone was honored as the CYO Player of the Year along with the National Football Foundation and Hall of Fame Scholar Athlete. He earned a total of three varsity letters in football as well two in baseball. He was voted as team captain in both football and baseball. He was a member of National Honor Society and ranked third in his class.


1979 baseball backs it up
In 43 years of Great Lakes League competition, Clay dominated baseball. They backed that up in 1979.

Eagle pitcher Keith Belcik survived a two-run rally in the seventh inning to lead Clay to a 3-2 victory over Euclid in the state championship. It was the first ever big school state baseball championship ever won by a Toledo area school.

There were state finalists before that time and some local small school championships. Pemberville was the small school champion in 1939. Libbey was a state finalist in 1935 and Rogers in 1968.

The Eagles finished the year 25-2 and the championship was Coach Dick Kandik's 100th victory. Clay won its second straight GLL championships, one of 19 league titles, more than any other GLL team.

Some of the greats in Clay sports were in attendance at that state championship game. Among them were football coach Ted Federici and basketball coach Bud Felhaber.

"It was awesome. We had a goal earlier in the year of making it to state. We had played together for so long, from pee wee days to high school. We knew we had the kind of ability with the kids we had coming back. But we knew at state we would be taken lightly because we were just a bunch of farm boys," Roger Achter, now Clay assistant athletic director, once told The Press.

Kandik knew how to keep these "farm boys" focused. They wouldn't have lost a game all season if it weren't for his ingenuity. In games against Genoa and Northview he deliberately used subs because of fears the kids were getting too cocky. They were the only two losses of the season.

"I think up to that point our heads were getting pretty big," said Achter. "It was the best thing that happened to us. Got us refocused and got us ready for the regionals."

The baseball team had a complexion of all around athletes. The football team that year had won its second straight football championship and the basketball team made it to the district finals. Seven of the nine baseball starters started on the football team and four were on the basketball team. Clay won the all sports trophy for the second year in a row in 1978-79.

Athletes include Achter and his twin brother, Rod, who is father of Major League pitcher A.J. Achter (Clay/Michigan State). Rod and Roger were football standouts and double figure scorers in basketball. Roger pitched a complete game in Clay's 3-1 state semifinal victory over Marietta, finishing the year 9-0 on the mound and 18-1 for his career.

Roger’s season ERA of 0.34 was a school record that stood for decades and may still be standing. Other school records set by that team include best winning percentage, .926 and most wins in a season (25). Three records standing today were set by Keith Belcik, 13 career home runs, 23 career pitching wins, and his 23-1 career pitching record on the mound was the highest winning percentage ever for a Clay pitcher, .958.

The Eagles breezed through the Akron regional.

We took care of business," said Achter. "We really weren't challenged. Everybody on the team knew what their role was. That was the neat thing and the important thing was we were really good friends off the field and that helped us."

In the state championship Belcik pitched a three-hitter. He ran into some control problems in the seventh inning, but Coach Kandik kept him in the game.

Achter says that Euclid may have taken Clay lightly. He explained that the Northeast Ohio team thought Clay was one dimensional. But Clay shortstop Jeff Thompson and first baseman Rod Achter showed them. On a ground ball to Thompson, the runner on first thought he could make it to third on Thompson's throw to first. Achter, also a catcher, fired a rifle to third base, catching the runner between base paths.

Belcik walked three of the first four batters in the seventh inning with the Eagles up 3-0, leading to two Euclid runs. But the Eagles held on for the victory. Euclid had beaten Cincinnati Elder in the other semi-final.

Roger Achter had told The Press that the Clay fans were amazing. So was administration and coaches.

"They let us go down there and enjoy the moment. It was a great experience. Something I'll never forget," he says.

Clay fans showed up at the state final in busloads and the city threw a parade for the boys when they came home. Achter says when he continued his baseball career at Bowling Green two Falcon teammates, a shortstop from Euclid and an outfielder from Cincinnati Elder, were bragging how their team made it to state. Achter had more to brag about.

The banquet will be Sept. 12 from 6-11 p.m. at The Chalet at Oak Shade Grove, 3624 Seaman Rd., Oregon. Cost is $40 per person and $300 per table (seats eight). Contact Laurie Dartt at 419-693-0668, but seating is limited.

 

 

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