Bloom-Carroll defeated Wheelersburg 4-0 last year en route to winning the state championship. A surprise success story to many last year, the Lady Bulldogs lost only one senior from that team and are one of the favorites to reach the finals again.
That said, they have to go through Wheelersburg first.
“I think after they beat us and beat Columbus Bishop Ready, they had momentum on their side,” said Wheelersburg coach Gary Bailey. “You have to be good and have luck on your side.”
“For us, we always seem to come back after someone beats us,” said Bailey.
Bailey used the example of 2005 when Zane Trace eliminated the Lady Pirates. In 2006, Wheelersburg eliminated them.
“We'd like to get them back,” he said.
For Wheelersburg to get its revenge, and secure a trip to the regional final, the Lady Pirates will probably need to find a way to get hits against Gabrielle Gillilan. Gillian has been the ace of the Lady Bulldogs' staff this season and pitched a shutout against Wheelersburg last year as a freshman. Bailey said that Gillilan is a hard thrower with a drop curve and solid changeup.
Brooke Baker will likely get the start for Wheelersburg today.
Coming into today's game after defeating West for the third time this season, Wheelersburg's confidence is running high, according to a pair of the team's seniors. First baseman Taylan Floyd and shortstop Brittany Meenach said this team is ready to continue the tournament run.
“After we beat West, the whole team was on a high because we love to beat West,” said Lady Pirates' senior Brittany Meenach.
“We started off our freshman year going to state,” said Floyd. “We'd like to go out the same way - but hopefully with a win.”
Having to face a team that is a defending champion also doesn't phase Wheelersburg because the makeup of Bloom-Carroll is reminiscent of the Lady Pirates.
“Both teams have good power hitters,” said Bailey. “They have good speed and some good slappers too.”
Bloom-Carroll is 19-8 and that record comes against the Mid State League. The MSL includes such teams as Amanda Clearcreek, Canal Winchester and Circleville.
The Lady Pirates are 22-3 and Bailey said the level of competition Wheelersburg has faced this season is comparable to that of Bloom-Carroll.
“That is one of the better leagues in the state,” said Bailey.
Wheelersburg forged its skills this season in the SOC II as well as in tournaments that pitted the Lady Pirates against higher division opponents.
To get past the defending state champions and continue its own path to state, Wheelersburg will need to call on that experience. Game time is 5 p.m. at Lancaster High School.
JOHN STEGEMAN can be reached at email@example.com.