AKRON — Wheelersburg softball completed its season-long journey at Akron’s Firestone Stadium on Saturday — defeating Indian Lake 6-0 in the Division III state final to claim the program’s second straight and third overall state title (2016, 2022, 2023).
The Lady Pirates also completed a perfect 32-0 season — the first season without a loss in ‘Burg softball history.
Wheelersburg becomes the first undefeated state softball champion since 2018 — when Keystone LaGrange and Warren Champion achieved the same feat.
“Speechless really,” ‘Burg coach Teresa Ruby said, after the game. “Thirty-two games, it’s hard to keep kids focused that long. And they were able to do it. I said this last time, I’m in awe of what they’re able to do. Pure joy to be able to be apart of it and get to know and be around these kids.”
A four-run third inning gave the Lady Pirates a clear path to their state championship win in the first of four state finals at Firestone Stadium on Saturday.
Junior Rileigh Lang and freshman Ava Estep led off ‘Burg’s scoring third with singles.
Lang scored from third on an unsuccessful fielder’s choice by Indian Lake — after advancing from second to third on a sacrifice bunt by junior Haley Myers.
With a 1-0 lead and one out, sophomore Catie Boggs delivered a two RBI-triple to score Estep and senior Macee Eaton for two more Lady Pirate runs.
Boggs scored from third on a Laker error — putting ‘Burg ahead 4-0 with two outs.
The sophomore Boggs delivered two more RBI in the Lady Pirate seventh with a two-run home run to straight-away center field.
“It felt really good because I know they always have my back,” Boggs said, of her four RBI day. “It felt good to give them something back.”
“Catie played well last year, and she came back this year better,” Ruby said, of Boggs. “When I say she’s better, that’s a big statement because she was already good.”
The two-run blast scored Eaton, who drew a two-out walk ahead of Boggs in the final at-bat of her historic career.
“These are my girls. I’m happy we won. Happy we didn’t lose any, that was good,” Eaton said, with a laugh. “These are my sisters, I’ll be rooting for them as they go for a three-peat.”
Junior AndiJo Howard pitched a gem for the Lady Pirates in the circle — allowing only two hits, issuing one walk, and earning the victory in the complete-game win.
The Lady Pirate defense made several spectacular plays to keep Indian Lake hitters off the basepaths — as they have a tendency to do.
In the first inning after a leadoff hit by pitch, the catcher Myers caught an attempted bunt that was popped up before it hit the ground — and threw down to Emma Smith at first base for an unusual, but unreal, 2-4 double play.
Smith, the second baseman, was covering the first-base bag on the bunt.
In the home half of the sixth, junior right fielder Rileigh Lang dove headfirst for a bloop ball into the green turf of her position — to prevent what would have been Indian Lake’s second hit.
“It’s easier to go and do what I want to do. I’m able to throw pitches because I know they’re going to have my back,” Howard said. “The play by RB (Rileigh Lang) in right field, should have been a hit. Things like that that make us want to pick it up even more.”
“The heat this weekend was horrendous and playing on that turf was difficult. Jo pitched a gem today,” Ruby said. “We always have some defense behind her, she pitched a gem today. Fought through the heat, and I think the pitcher on the other team was struggling.”
Wheelersburg’s four seniors — first baseman Eaton, centerfielder Kiera Kennard, and reserves Jaelin Thomas and Kierra Rafalowski — close their high school careers as two-time state champions.
Wheelersburg 004 000 2 — 6 7 0
Indian Lake 000 000 0 — 0 2 1
W: AndiJo Howard (W) 7IP, 2H, 1BB, 2K, 0ER; L: Madison Brentlinger (IL) 7IP, 7H, 6ER, 2BB, 4K
Ava Estep 1-3, R, BB
Macee Eaton 2-3, 2R, RBI, BB
Catie Boggs 2-4, 2R, 4RBI, 2-run HR
Kaylynn Carter 1-3
Rileigh Lang 1-3, R
Indian Lake hitting
Halle Roby 1-3
Porscha Davis 1-2
Madison Brentlinger 0-2, BB
Haylee Edwards 0-2, HBP
Reach Jacob Smith at (740) 370-0713 ext. 1930, by email at [email protected], or on Twitter @JacobSmithPDT © 2023 Portsmouth Daily Times, all rights reserved