It was a Who’s Who list of superstars.
Alex Loftin, Cory Martin and Brandon Parsons were just a few of those household names who could make just about any opponent quiver in fear.
That’s because those guys were part of a baseball squad that could rival the vaunted 1934 American League All-Star team.
Of course, you could argue that this particular "Murderers’ Row" featured the National League’s top hurler too.
Think of it this way: Imagine if that stacked roster had a right-handed version AND a left-handed version of Carl Hubbell.
Such was life for the 2006 Stow-Munroe Falls baseball team that was poised to make a deep run in the postseason.
Heck, with Loftin, a right-handed pitcher, and Martin, a southpaw flamethrower, along with their favorite battery mate, Parsons, a state championship trophy was not just a far-fetched pipe dream on Graham Road.
One could have made a legitimate case that it was going to be a foregone conclusion.
In the end, the Bulldogs couldn’t quite live up to their enormous and perhaps ridiculously unfair expectations.
When the 2006 show came to a close, Summit County’s baseball darling was not partial to maroon and gold colors.
Instead, an unlikely hero forcefully crashed the party. And wow, what a party it was for some folks on Ravenna Road.
In case you haven’t figured it out, I’m referring to another member of the now defunct Northeast Ohio Conference.
That Valley Division squad lost 10 games in 2006, including a pair of setbacks to vaunted Stow during the regular season.
And what did these not particularly riveting facts prove?
That’s because the lightly regarded Twinsburg baseball team wound up making an improbable run to the Division I state semifinals.
As you may have guessed, yours truly never saw it coming.
I remember the first time I saw the Tigers play during that season. It took place in April when they paid a visit to Water Works Park to face division rival Cuyahoga Falls.
To be perfectly candid, I wasn’t impressed … at all.
Twinsburg raced out of the gates to take a five-run lead before promptly squandering that advantage in spectacular fashion in the latter innings.
At that point, I couldn’t help but wonder about the inevitable circumstances. It was basically a no-brainer: The Valley Division was a battle for second.
The Bulldogs flexed their muscles throughout the season on their way to a division championship. As a result, Stow was the undisputed No. 1 seed in the Hudson Division I sectional-district tournament.
The Tigers received the No. 3 seed, which was certainly valid. However, to this skeptical reporter, Twinsburg might as well have been the 900th seed in comparison to the mighty Bulldogs.
As fate would have it, part three of this 21st-century version of "The Great Siege of Malta" was going to take place.
Only this time, I expected the Ottoman Empire’s invasion to be an absolute massacre.
In all fairness, the Tigers won two games to reach the district final. In this reporter’s eyes, though, Twinsburg’s latest triumph left a lot to be desired.
That’s because the Tigers defeated Brecksville-Broadview Heights 5-4 in dramatic fashion. By the way, that particular score seemed to be the theme of this once-in-a-lifetime journey.
Twinsburg trailed 4-3 heading into the bottom of the seventh, and if I remember correctly, the Tigers still trailed by that margin with two outs.
And then it seemed like there was some sort of mysterious sorcery in the air. Not that Twinsburg minded, though.
The Bees committed a throwing error on a routine ground ball and then, in a matter of moments, the Tigers smacked the ball left and right to pull off a stunning comeback.
Once again, some wiseguy wasn’t buying it. Yep, that would be the fool piecing together this column.
I can remember thinking how lucky Twinsburg was. "It was a total fluke," my mind kept shouting loudly.
To take it a step further, I was even brash enough to tell another reporter that Stow would beat the Tigers handily the next day.
If you remember this story, I probably don’t have to give you much of a lesson on how dead wrong I was.
This unforgettable contest was originally supposed to take place at The Ballpark at Hudson.
Thanks to the wet weather, the showdown wound up happening at Kent State University’s Schoonover Stadium.
As it turned out, the weather didn’t change much when the game began. Despite torrential rain, the two teams took a field that resembled a treacherous quagmire.
Right away, I could see that the original script was going to be torn to pieces.
Loftin, a gifted hurler who could put the ball anywhere he wanted, struggled to grip the slippery white object due to the wet conditions.
Amazingly, his day was over not long after it began.
That’s because the Tigers put up five runs in the first inning.
Twinsburg pitcher Aaron Swenson battled similar conditions, but thanks to his savvy and a well-timed double play, the lead remained 5-0 after one inning of play.
The rains eventually disappeared, but the damage was done. The Tigers didn’t let up the rest of the way en route to an unimaginable 14-7 victory.
In defense of the Bulldogs, I often wondered how the game would have gone if the precipitation didn’t invade this beautiful facility.
Regardless, my doubts, much like the rain itself, quickly started to evaporate.
For the most part, at least.
Now that the area’s menacing behemoth had been tamed, I didn’t expect this scrappy blue-and-white underdog to make much of a dent the rest of the way.
I guess I never learn, do I?
Taking on two more state-ranked teams, Twinsburg advanced to the final four for the first time since 1990.
The Tigers brushed off North Royalton and Euclid to punch their tickets to Columbus. By the way, both of those games produced — you guessed it — 5-4 victories.
Yes, this so-called decent but not exactly imposing squad suddenly looked like the 1927 Yankees.
The fairy tale came to a crashing halt once Twinsburg made its way to the now abandoned Cooper Stadium.
The Tigers’ glorious season concluded with a 7-2 loss to Lewis Center Olentangy.
Not surprisingly, Twinsburg didn’t go down without a fight. Trailing 4-2 in the top of the fifth, the Tigers had multiple runners on base.
Alas, none of those baserunners touched home plate, thanks to a dreaded inning-ending double play.
After the game, I interviewed then Twinsburg head coach Don Jones and his starting senior catcher, Gerald Ogrinc.
Call me paranoid, but my hunch is, Ogrinc didn’t particularly care for my last question.
It was something like this: "If I would have told you before the season that Twinsburg would reach the final four, would you have believed me?"
Ogrinc, with a rather noticeable glare on his face, responded matter-of-factly: "I would have said yes."
Who could ever imagine that a teenage standout backstop could correctly read my mind so easily? It’s a safe bet if I would have been given a lie-detector test, I would have failed miserably.
That’s OK, though. Being proven wrong comes with the territory when it comes to my profession. And since I get paid to cover high school athletes who push their bodies to the absolute limits, I’m more than happy to see them put a so-called pundit like myself in his rightful place.
Looking back, this lovely underdog story is far more deceptive than it originally appeared.
Swenson and Ogrinc eventually signed free-agent contracts with Major League teams. Outfielder/first baseman Brian Kordal, a senior who got big hit after big hit throughout the postseason, played baseball for a Division I college team.
Since I’ve been employed in Northeast Ohio for more than 20 years, I’ve had the pleasure of covering many state champions, mainly on the individual side.
I had the privilege of writing about my first state championship team one year later when the Hudson softball squad, which had trouble getting out of sectional play the previous years, pulled a "Twinsburg" and wound up winning its only title.
For this failed psychic, though, the Tigers’ incredible run back in 2006 will always have a special place in my heart.
In fact, I will go on record to say that it is my favorite experience in my journalism career.
Without a doubt.
Reporter Frank Aceto can be reached at 330-541-9444, firstname.lastname@example.org or @FrankAceto_Gannett.