The Monday, June 23, 1980 edition of The Evening Star was a special one, starting with a special front page.
A three-column headline, printed in large red letters, was more accentuated by a huge six-column picture that filled the bottom half of the page. More pictures followed on pages 2, 15 and 16. A cartoon of Head Coach Bill Jones hauling a large trophy appeared on the editorial page.
Such coverage is ordinarily reserved for the start of a world war, or for declaration of peace or for something that would be considered of vital interest to everyone. But this special edition was devoted to local news.
The front-page headline told it all: “BARONS STATE CHAMPS!”
The story of the game was on page 16. Its headline, almost nonchalant compared to the one on the front page read: “Eighth-Inning Run Gives Barons State Title.”
Underneath Sports Editor Jim Klopfenstein’s account of the championship game was a dramatic photo of Baron freshman Bob Squires singling to right field, knocking in the only run of the game. The picture was taken from behind home plate so that Squires and the baseball were silhouetted against the black background.
Below that picture was one of Assistant Coach Steve Harp waving Chris Forrest around third base and towards home plate with the winning run.
Klopfenstein’s story began like this:
A sharp single to right field by Bob Squires scored Chris Forrest from second
base for the only run of an exciting, extra-inning game between DeKalb and Muncie
When Forrest touched home plate, the DeKalb Barons became high school
baseball champions of the state of Indiana.
While the Barons were a consistent team offensively throughout the season, it was brilliant pitching in post-season play that put them over the top and carried them to the state championship.
No team scored more than three runs against the Barons in nine post-season games, and Baron pitchers allowed only three runs, all unearned, in the final four games of the state tournament.
The staff included Todd Cobbs, who won both games at the state finals and 12 for the season, and Mike Hasselman, who won the championship games of the sectional, regional, and semi-state and finished with nine wins of his own.
The championship game against Muncie Northside began ominously, however, when the Titans loaded the bases with nobody out in the top of the first inning on a walk, an error, and a fielder’s choice. But the Barons tagged out one Titan baserunner in a rundown for the first out and Hasselman struck out the next two batters to work out of the jam.
After the first inning, neither Hasselman nor Cobbs, who went to the mound in the seventh inning, encountered any serious difficulty. Only one Titan baserunner got as far as second base after the initial inning.
The Barons, meanwhile, were knocking at the door throughout the game, but could not break through until the eighth. They had at least one baserunner in each of the first seven innings, but baserunning mishaps haunted them in the title game.
Three DeKalb baserunners were tossed out trying to steal in the first seven innings, and twice the Barons’ attempts to bunt backfired. Another baserunner was picked off to end a scoring threat.
Then came the eighth inning, which started with Harp replacing Jones in the third base coaching box. The move was born of superstition. Or, as Jones put it, “Harp told me I hadn’t done any good for us over there, and that I should give him a try.”
Forrest started the winning rally with a one-out single deep in the hole between third base and shortstop. He promptly stole second, the Barons’ first successful steal in four tries. Cobbs fanned for the second out, and Squires stepped in with a chance to end it.
Squires lined the first pitch (an outside fastball) into right field, and the speedy Forrest slid across the plate without a play.
He’d barely done so when the celebration began. Hundreds of Baron fans were seated behind the dugout for the game, and they whooped it up along with the Baron players. Another cause of celebration came when Hasselman was announced as the L.V. Phillips Mental Attitude Award.
When the Barons returned home on Sunday, there was a parade, starting in Ashley and finishing in downtown Auburn. Jones ran in front of the fire truck, as he promised he’d do if the Barons won it all, wearing a jock strap.
Not to worry, he was wearing gym shorts underneath the jock strap.
A month later, a special championship celebration was held at the high school to further commemorate the event. Fans and special guest speakers toasted the team, and the players reciprocated by signing autographs for the fans.
The 1980 Barons set six team records (at the time) en route to the state championship: most wins (30), most runs (252), most stolen bases (109), most at-bats (1,079), most hits (337) and most runs batted in (201).
In addition, Cobbs set a pitching record (at the time) with 12 wins in a season. Nick Phillips, who was named first team all-state, set four batting records (at the time): most hits (57), most at-bats (129), most runs scored (46), and most home runs (9).
All in all, the spring of 1980 was a season to remember.