FHS announces 6th hall of fame class

Cox, Miller, Shanton, 1975 baseball team get the call

For The Times-Gazette

Chris Cox, Jeff Miller, the late Lynette (Kiesling) Shanton and the 1975 Fairfield baseball will be inducted when the Fairfield Local Athletic Hall of Fame holds its 2023 ceremonies Friday and Saturday at the school in Leesburg, Fairfield Athletic Director James Barnett and Tom Purtell, co-chairman of the hall of fame, announced Sunday.

The induction ceremony will be held Sunday, Jan. 29 at 2 p.m. at the school. The inductees will also be introduced and presented with their hall of fame plaques prior to the varsity game with the North Adams High School Devils on Friday, Jan. 27 .

“The hall of fame is organized as a way of maintaining the rich heritage and tradition of the successful athletic programs at Fairfield Local High School (including Leesburg High School, Highland High School and Samantha High School),” a news release said. “This class of 2023 is the sixth hall of fame class and has truly made outstanding contributions to the athletic programs at Fairfield.”

Following is brief biography of each of the inductees. An expanded biography with pictures will be issued after the event.

Jeffrey B. “Jeff” Miller graduated from Fairfield Local High School in 1982. He contributed to Fairfield as a player, coach, teacher and assistant athletic director. He was inducted into the Fairfield Athletic Hall of Fame in 2020 as a member of the 1979 state golf team. Miller played basketball and baseball all four years, but his passion was the game of baseball. Baseball isn’t a rush to the finish. Baseball decides when it wants to end. Each inning is full of strategy, decision-making and an opportunity to make great plays. Miller values coaching high school baseball because it was played for the love of the game.

Miller grew up in Leesburg, the oldest of three children of Jerome and Juanita Miller. He has one sister, Jill Sanderson, and one brother, Jeremy Miller. Their father instilled and introduced sports into their lives. Jeff Miller started coaching Little League baseball in 1982 with his father and his brother as a player. His father introduced him to many lessons and knowledge of the game that proved to be a foundation for coaching for 19 years of varsity baseball. He started coaching baseball at Fairfield in 1993 and once again coached his brother as a player. He also had the privilege to coach both his sons, Edward and Nathaniel.

Miller’s love for baseball continued after his playing days. He transitioned to coaching Little League baseball and serving as a member on the board. He enjoyed working with the youth and teaching fundamentals of the game. His hard work, commitment and knowledge earned him the opportunity to be named varsity baseball coach.

Miller coached varsity baseball for 19 years, winning 245 games. He guided the boys to one regional runner-up, three regional appearances, three district championships, six district runners-up, 12 district appearances, 12 sectional championships, and finished first in the Southern Hills Athletic Conference five times second eight times. He had just one losing record in the league in 19 years.

Miller had 45 all-league players, 37 all-district players, two district players of the year, two All-Ohio Mizuno players and 29 all-state players. Miller was named SHAC Coach of the Year in 1997 and 1998.

Lynnette Kiesling Shanton, a lifetime resident of the Leesburg area, was the salutatorian of the first graduating class at the new Fairfield High School building in 2002. During her four years at Fairfield High School, she excelled in the classroom and as a leader both in sports and in her private life. On the athletic front, she left her mark in three sports, starring in basketball and volleyball and playing first base for the softball team her junior and senior year.

As a member of the Fairfield varsity softball team for three years, Shanton was a part of the SHAC champions in 2000 and sectional champions in 2000 and 2002.

Although Shanton was 6-2, her lack of girth made her work that much harder to excel, especially on the basketball court. She never gave in and never complained. Many times she gave up scoring opportunities to assist her teammates. She was in the top three rebounders in the SHAC in both her junior and senior years while also putting up impressive numbers in scoring and blocked shots. Lynnette was named to the SHAC all-conference basketball team her junior and senior year as well as the Southeast All-District team and All-Ohio Special Mention. Fairfield won sectional basketball championships in 2000 and 2001.

In volleyball, she was All-SHAC her junior and senior year.

Her dominance of volleyball as a middle hitter led her to receiving a four-year volleyball scholarship at the University of Rio Grande. She led the team in kills her junior and senior year and was selected team captain her senior year. She was on the all-conference team in 2004 and was named Academic All-American in 2004 and 2005. Her leadership qualities carried over from high school and led her to returning to Rio as a graduate assistance to coach Billina Cooper-Donaldson while working to attain her master’s of education degree.

Christopher “Chris” Cox graduated from Fairfield in 2011 as the second leading basketball scorer in school history with 1,363 career points. His combination of size, skill, athleticism and above the rim play was a first and has not since been seen at Fairfield. He excelled against his peers from an early age and his size advantage wasn’t typical in that he had the ball handling and shooting skills of kids that were a foot shorter. Craig Adams was Chris’ Little League basketball coach in fourth, fifth and sixth grades. Cox credits Adams with teaching him the “moves” of a post player and helping him develop as a young basketball player. He also taught him the value of hard work and a love for the game.

Cox averaged 12.5 ppg as a freshman for Fairfield, including a season-high 23 against Hillsboro, and 11.1 as a sophomore on upperclassmen heavy teams. His teams won sectional championships and advanced to the Convocation Center in Athens during both seasons. They fell to state powerhouse and 2008-09 state champion Oak Hill in the district tournament both years, giving Oak Hill its toughest test to that point in the tournament during its state championship run. He earned honorable mention all-southeast district as a freshman and sophomore as well as All-SHAC honors during both of his underclassmen seasons.

During his junior season, he averaged a stellar 22.68 ppg (fourth best in school history) which included 19 games in which he scored 20 or more points (school record). This led to his third All-SHAC selection, first team southeast district honors and a third team All-Ohio nod making him only the second (male) player to earn a spot on the first, second or third team. He scored a career-high 31 points in the final regular season game against Paint Valley and became the first player in school history to score his 1,000th point as a junior as he hit the mark in the sectional tournament vs. South Webster.

A knee injury suffered early in the first game of his senior season caused him to miss multiple games and it took some time to get back to 100% once he returned. In a blowout win at North Adams, Cox scored 35 points in less than three quarters. He took a seat with 1:07 remaining in the third quarter and did not play in the fourth quarter. Cox averaged 17.9 ppg his final season and ended his career with a district runner-up finish as his team fell in the district finals in Athens in a close game to South Webster. Coxearned his fourth All-SHAC honor, his second career first team southeast district honor and a second career third team All Ohio distinction at the conclusion of his senior year. He is the only basketball player in school history to earn a spot on the first, second or third All-Ohio team twice in a career as well as the only four-year All-SHAC basketball player.

His excellent jumping ability led to three SHAC dunk contest titles as well as putting on quite an above-the-rim show at the Southeast District All Star Game in 2011. Cox was the first full-time four-year starter in boys basketball, earned four varsity letters and is the only boys player to average double figures all four seasons.

Former Fairfield coach Matt Carson said, “The biggest thing Chris Cox and his teammates did was help establish expectations and winning culture that is associated with Fairfield basketball to this day. Prior to Chris’ freshmen year, Fairfield had last won a sectional championship in 2003 and there was a five-year drought until they won it in 2008.”

Fairfield has won 10 boys basketball sectional championships in the last 14 years.

In 1938, Leesburg High School and Highland High School consolidated to form Fairfield Local High School. Samantha High School closed and joined the school district later. Fairfield began competing in the sports of boys baseball and boys basketball in 1938. There have been some very good teams compete in the Highland County Tournament and advance to the Southeast District Tournament. The 1955 boys basketball team was a really good team, but failed to win a district championship. Teams from the 1960s and early 1970s also came close, but still failed to win a district championship. The 1943 boys basketball team came close. After a losing regular season, they won six consecutive tournament games, winning the Highland County Tournament and winning two district tournament games. They finished as the Southeast District runner-up.

The 1975 Fairfield Baseball team finally broke the drought, winning Fairfield’s first Southeast District Championship on May 16, 1975.

Glenn Alexander had the coached the boys in both basketball and baseball in 1975 and 1976. They were successful in basketball finishing in first place in the SHAC with records of 9-1 in the SHAC, 19-3 overall in 1975, and added a gold basketball to the trophy case with an undefeated SHAC season (10-0 SHAC, 21-2 overall) in 1976.

Alexander recalled: “That this group was very special. They were talented and had been well coached in youth baseball. They also possessed that unique chemistry which allowed them to be very successful in all their athletic endeavors.”

The 1975 Fairfield baseball fielded a balanced squad led by seniors Roy Kelley, John Duncan, Tony Haines and Joe Shields. The core of the team was a talented junior class: Mike Houck, Danny Bobbitt, Steve Smalley, Dave Purtell, Mike Bobb and Chuck Marshall. The underclassmen soon developed after this 1975 season into top baseball players in their own right. Sophomores Kevin Adams and Eddie Newman, and freshmen Tim Brannock, Tim Priest, Doug Carson, Todd Bobbitt and Roger Bales.

The 1975 baseball regular season was not what the team expected, finishing in fifth place with a (5-5) SHAC and 6-7 overall record. But as the regular season came to a close, the 1975 Fairfield baseball team seemed to click and played extremely well in the tournament.

Fairfield defeated Whiteoak on May 7, 1975, by a score of 7-5 in the first game of the sectional tournament. Kelley was the winning pitcher, posting 15 strikeouts. Steve Smalley, Kevin Adams and Mike Houck each had two hits and Danny Bobbitt, Duncan, Haines and Kelley each had one hit for Fairfield. Kelley was the winning pitcher for Fairfield allowing 5 runs on 4 hits and six walks. Stivers suffered the loss for Whiteoak.

On May 9, 1975, Fairfield defeated Manchester, 8-5, to win a sectional championship in a game played at Manchester. Eight different Fairfield players scored runs. Danny Bobbitt and Haines each had two hits and five other Lions had one hit. Kelley again was the winning pitcher with five strikeouts.

In the Southeast District semifinal game, the Lions outlasted the Racine Southern Tornadoes, 4-3, scoring four runs in the final two innings. Smalley, Adams, Houck, Haines and Duncan had key hits for Fairfield. Kelley pitched a superb game earning the win, yielding only one earned run. He fanned 11 batters and allowed three hits.

In the Southeast district finals, Kelley took the mound and pitched an amazing game enabling the Lions to come out a 2-0 winner. Fairfield played the game without its main offensive threat, Houck, who suffered a fractured jaw the night before in practice. He was leading the Lions in virtually every offensive category. Purtell, Bobb, Kelley, Adams and Haines had key hits for the Lions. However, the Lions didn’t need much offense as Kelley gave up only one hit while striking out six to earn his fourth tournament victory to win the district championship.

The Lions lost in the regional tournament semifinal game on May 23, 1975, at Trotman Field on the Ohio State University campus to Lucasville, which go on to win the Ohio State Class A Championship with a perfect 25-0 record.

The hall of fame selection committee will honor the 1975 Fairfield baseball team with induction into the hall of fame. Team members included: Roy Kelley, John Duncan, Tony Haines, Joe Shields, Mike Houck, Danny Bobbitt, Steve Smalley, Dave Purtell, Mike Bobb, Chuck Marshall, Kevin Adams, Eddie Newman, Tim Brannock, Tim Priest, Doug Carson, Todd Bobbitt and Roger Bales. The scorekeeper was Ellen Boyle Zink.

The induction ceremony is open to the public. Questions may be directed to Tom Purtell at 937-402-0218 or email [email protected]

Information for this story was provided by Tom Purtell.

Cox, Miller, Shanton, 1975 baseball team get the call

For The Times-Gazette