The tears in Amanda Grashel's eyes showed just how important Monday was to both the Portsmouth and Ironton communities.
Grashel's husband, former Trojans athletic director Tom, recently passed away after a bout with pancreatic cancer. Out of tragedy was born Monday's Strike Out Cancer and Hit it Hard event, which featured both the Trojans and Lady Fighting Tigers on the softball field. The event was conducted by the Ohio High School Fastpitch Softball Coaches Association, with Portsmouth raising funds for pancreatic cancer and Ironton breast cancer.
However, Monday meant much more to many in the crowd, including Amanda Grashel. The event was a way to remember Tom and raise awareness for the many forms of cancer.
"It's overwhelming," said Amanda Grashel with emotion flowing. "It is sad that we have to do something like this to raise awareness. I hope this helps. Usually, when people find out they have pancreatic cancer, it is too late. Hopefully, we can find a way to find this thing quicker, or at least find a cure."
Coordinated by Grashel along with Jill Albrecht and Courtney Clifford, both cancer survivors, Monday's event drew many to the softball field behind Spartan Stadium in spite of the cool temperatures. The game was part of an all-day program that included a Clifford PowerPoint presentation at Portsmouth High School, as well as a cookout during the game.
Clifford, 25, is a two-time survivor of the disease - thyroid cancer at 14 and ovarian cancer at 22. Clifford said she was amazed at the turnout of support, but not surprised given the close-knit community.
"The Portsmouth community has always been amazing," she said. "The fact that cancer touches everyone I think really hits a chord, and everyone wants to do something. Everyone has been amazing, but especially with the loss of Tommy Grashel and all that cancer does, not just to my family, but lots of families. These types of events are needed and we are very thankful for everyone who has come out who has supported us."
Clifford noted that the assembly at Portsmouth High School raised $500 dollars.
Like Grashel, Jill Albrecht, wife of Portsmouth softball coach Joe and a breast cancer survivor, said she was "overwhelmed" by the outpouring of support from those who attended the game.
"All of us have been touched by cancer," she said. "Everybody gets involved and helps with something like this."
Both teams wore special T-shirts with the phrase "Strike Out Cancer and Hit it Hard" on them for the game. The event had special meaning for coach Albrecht, not just in honoring his friend but for the contributions he made as a previous coach in the softball program.
"I can't express how much we miss him," he said. "We have a lot of love in our community. It is 40 degrees and cold, but this is a great crowd that we had down here. He was a softball coach before I was. He was instrumental of our program. Since I have been coaching, we are 108-81, have won a couple of sectional titles and have been district runners-up a couple of times, and Tommy started it."
Ironton would ultimately win the game, using a 10-run first inning to pull away to a 22-3 victory. Portsmouth would get hits from Emily Hopkins, Sydney Allen and Jordan Howell, as well as two from Taylor Cooper in the game, scoring all three runs in the first inning.
"I just wish we would have played a little better," said Albrecht. "We'll dust ourselves off and get ready to play next time. Ironton is a good ball club, and they hit the ball well off of us."
"Our girls bounced back from a hard loss to Gallia Academy on Thursday night," said Lady Fighting Tigers coach Jim Dyer. "We hit the ball well and got on the ball hard. They played as well as they could play."
JOSH HICKLE can be reached at (740) 353-3101, ext. 241.
Ironton (10)43 41 - 22 13 0
Portsmouth 300 00 - 3 5 3
WP: Summers. LP: Heather Drake.
Portsmouth - Taylor Cooper 2-2 2B, R; Emily Hopkins 1-2; Sydney Allen 1-2; Jordan Howell 1-2.
Records - Portsmouth 2-4 (1-3); Ironton 4-1 (4-1).