It could have been any one of eight teams left standing at the top.
But, in the end, it was the Shelby Whippets who took home the 2022 Richland County Baseball Power Poll championship. Why and why not a different team, let's take a look.
1. Shelby (14-6)
So the preseason favorites to take the power poll championship spent just one week at the top of the standings before coming all the way back around to the top in the final poll of the season. Shelby wins the 2022 Richland County Power Poll championship, but it wasn't an easy decision. The Whippets went 6-1 against Richland County schools including two-game sweeps of Ontario and Clear Fork and wins over Lucas and Madison. Their lone loss came 10-0 to Lexington when Shelby had to pitch an out-of-rotation guy while Lex threw its ace.
The Whippets have caught fire of late winning five in a row, all against Richland County schools. So, they are playing the best among these schools at the current moment. Those games they were losing by narrow margins at the beginning of the year are now the games they are winning by narrow margins at the end of the year. In those five wins, two have been by one run, one by two runs and one by three runs. It is those close wins that will serve them well come tournament time.
2. Lucas (12-9)
The Cubs deserve the No. 2 spot after going 12-9 for the season. They lost to Shelby 3-2 in a game they actually led 2-1 heading into the bottom of the sixth. If the Cubs would have won that game, that would have sealed the power poll championship. Lucas won its second consecutive Mid-Buckeye Conference championship this year, just the third league championship in program history. The Cubs have the complete package to compete for a district championship this season with the 1-2 pitching punch of Andrew Smollen and Hunter Church as well as big bats all through the lineup. This team isn't done yet.
3. Crestview (12-9)
The Cougars gave the Firelands Conference championship race everything they had. They aren't completely out of it yet, but they need a huge upset by winless Monroeville over South Central to even have a chance. Instead of worrying about all of that, the Cougars will turn their focus to the Division III sectional tournament against Colonel Crawford where the Ringler boys will try and lead the Cougs to a tournament win for the first time since 2018.
4. Plymouth (15-7)
The Big Red comes in at No. 4 in the final poll. Two losses to Crestview last week hurt their chances to move up but they did close out the regular season with two very nice wins over Margaretta and Mount Gilead. Trace McVey had a five-RBI day and if he can continue to swing a hot bat, the BIg Red will be a tough out in the tournament with Cole Wentz on the bump. Plymouth will play the winner of Crestline and Lucas and all signs point to a sectional title rematch with the Cubs again this year.
5. Ontario (13-6)
The Warriors round out the season at No. 5 after spending some time at the top of the poll a few weeks ago. Ontario controlled their own destiny in the MOAC title race but dropped two to Shelby and one to Clear Fork to put the Warriors out of the running. Now, Ontario must switch focus to the sectional tournament where they host either Upper Sandusky or Lima Shawnee in the championship game. The second season starts on Friday and the Warriors have a good chance to make some noise.
6. Clear Fork (10-13)
The Colts are stumbling to the finish line, but if there is a team no one wants to play in the tournament, it is Clear Fork. Notorious for long postseason runs, the Colts have a chance to do some special things again with their mixture of pitching and timely hitting. They have to get by Mansfield Senior first before setting up what will be one heck of a showdown with Shelby on Friday. It could be another Jared Scott/Marshall Shepherd matchup that ended in a 1-0 Colts loss earlier in the season.
7. Lexington (9-12)
Lexington is the only Richland County team to have a win over the champs. After going 10-18 last season, the Minutemen finished the regular season 9-12 which includes a stretch where they beat Shelby and Bellevue by a combined 27-5. If Lex can find that offensive production behind OSU-bound Cole Pauley, a tournament run could be in their future. They have to take a road trip in their opener though heading all the way to Celina for a sectional championship game on Friday.
8. Madison (6-18)
The Rams round out the year at No. 8 and have a win over No. 2 on their resume. They also picked up a nice tournament win on Monday to keep their postseason alive after dropping their first sectional game last season. So the Rams are most definitely building back up to their traditional ways.
9. Mansfield Christian (5-15)
The Flames come in at No. 9 in the final power poll. At 5-15, it is one of the best seasons in recent memory at Mansfield Christian. They earned a Mid-Buckeye Conference win for the first time in a very long time and have a chance to earn a tournament victory over Upper Scioto Valley. Those two accomplishments will go a long way in the rebuilding of that program.
10. Mansfield Senior (2-12)
The Tygers roll in at No. 10 after earning their second win of the season last week beating Crestline 10-0 behind Quintin Little's complete-game shutout performance. When Little is on the mound, the Tygers have a chance to win as long as the defense holds up behind them and they can string a few hits together. That will be the goal against Clear Fork in their sectional semifinal contest.
Last week's rankings
8. Clear Fork
9. Mansfield Christian
10. Mansfield Senior
This article originally appeared on Mansfield News Journal: Shelby reclaims top spot, Richland County Power Poll championship