OVBL returns to action tonight

The crack of the ball off the wooden bat (no ‘ping’ here!).

The sound of the ball popping in the catcher’s leather mitt.

The sound of an umpire yelling ‘play ball!’

If it’s the middle of May, all three signal the start of the Steele and Cook Insurance Ohio Valley Baseball League.

Five games are on tap around the Ohio Valley tonight as the 11-team league swings into action, literally, IF Mother Nature cooperates.

Defending champion Barton entertains Warren Township at Henning Field in Crescent, and it has been rumored that former St. Clairsville Titan Mackenzie Koehler will toe the rubber for the Braves against the River Pirates.

In other action, Neffs, the 2012 runnerup, welcomes Maynard to the old ballyard along Ohio 149, while Shadyside visits Patterson Field in Elm Grove to meet the Wheeling Cardinals. The Wheeling Yankees host West Liberty at Garden Park in Warwood, while Weirton, the 2011 titlist, gets a visit from Marshall County on Edwin J. Bowman Field.

Only newcomer Lafferty, which is back in the league after a couple of years hiatus, doesn’t play tonight. Instead, the Dodgers will make their 2013 debut Sunday when the Wheeling Cardinals trek to the Lafferty Community Park.

All weekday games begin at 6 p.m., with all Sunday tilts having a 1 p.m. start (unless noted on the schedule which can be found on page B3 of today’s edition).

Milestone Reached

When Barnesville defeated St. Clairsville Tuesday afternoon in baseball action at Memorial Park in the Belmont County Seat, former Shamrock standout and current assistant coach Joel Atkinson recorded his 300th win with the program.

According to head coach D.J. Butler, Atkinson, who also has 100 career pitching victories in the OVBL, has coached with Brad Wilson, Vinny Kirkpatrick and Butler.

After his stellar prep career in Barnesville, the lefty matriculated to Mount Union where he was an All-American.

Beautiful Park Saved

It was relieving to see that voters in St. Clairsville finally realized how important Memorial Park is to its citizens, and those who come from all over to utilize its facilities.

Just to mention one aspect of the spacious recreational facility – the baseball field is second to none when it comes to playing surface and dugouts.

The seating arrangement is plentiful and gives the spectators several vandtage points to view the game.

Speaking of Mount Union

It was kind of stunning to see Larry Kehres abruptly hang up his whistle as the Purple Raiders’ head football coach.

The legendary NCAA Division III sideline walker compiled a superb 332-24-3 mark in 27 seasons at the Alliance-based institution.

His team’s won an amazing 23 Ohio Athletic Conference titles; posted 21 undefeated regular seasons; and claimed 11 national championships.

I had the opportunity to speak with Kehres following a Mount Union game at Muskingum University a couple of years ago.

Kehres will continue his duties as athletic director. His son Vince, is the new head coach.

Bobcats’ Catch on ESPN

With two outs in the bottom of the seventh inning and the winning run in the batters’ box, Ohio University centerfielder Alyssa Wolfe saved the game against rival Miami Thursday.

Wolfe made her game-ending catch when she gloved a drive by the RedHawks’ Jenna Modic in deep left-center, one which seemed certain to be a game-winning home run for the RedHawks.

Wolfe, of Junction City, Oh., sprinted after it and made the catch before catapulting over the make-shift fence in the process.

The play ranked as ESPN’s No. 2 “Play of the Day.”

Penguins Will Ice Islanders

There will be NO Game 7 in the Pittsburgh-New York Islanders series!

Yes, you read it here first.

The Penguins will put the Islanders on ice Saturday inside the Nassau County Coliseum on Long Island.

Sid “The Kid” Crosby and his mates are on a mission, and with veteran net-minder Tomas Vokoun, a former Wheeling Thunderbird, playing like he did Thursday night, it might be a long time on the pine for Marc-Andre Fleury.

Go Pens!

North can be reached at knorth@timesleaderonline.com