Titans take 6th straight sectional


PORTSMOUTH — For the Notre Dame Titans, the proverbial yellow-brick road to the promised land of Akron officially began on Wednesday by going Green.

As in a 21-run, 21-hit, mercy-rule walloping by the Division IV top-seeded and host Titans over the 16th-seeded and visiting Bobcats —as Notre Dame actually combined for a three-pitcher no-hitter, with the Bobcats just having two total baserunners.

The end result was a 21-0 final score shutout —as the Division IV softball sectional championship high atop Sunrise Avenue only took five innings before the mercy rule went into effect.

Notre Dame scored six first-inning runs, then exploded for 10 runs in the second —before a single marker in the third and four more in the fourth.

As for that combined no-hitter, winning pitcher and senior Gwen Sparks struck out eight of the nine Bobcats she saw over the opening three innings — before freshman Ava Rush and sophomore Alayla Soard worked one inning apiece.

Rush faced four batters and struck out three, and Soard saw four Bobcats and struck out two —only issuing a walk to Green freshman Jayden Appling.

With the victory, and speaking of 21, Wednesday’s win was the 21st this season for the two-senior Titans —Sparks and fellow Division I college softball signee Kyndall Ford.

The Titans take a 21-4 record into Monday’s Division IV Southeast District semifinal at the University of Rio Grande—where they will play eighth-seeded Meigs Eastern at 4 p.m.

Their sectional championship is now six consecutive, and likely would have been seven —had the coronavirus threat not canceled the entire 2020 campaign.

As for the district tournament, after district titles in 1987 and 1988, the remaining seven have all occurred in the past decade-and-a-half —in 2011, 2012, 2014, 2019, 2021, 2022 and 2023.

The Titans are also back-to-back Division IV Region 15 runners-up, but third-year head coach Shad Ford thinks this third time could indeed be the charm.

The road to Firestone Stadium and the state softball tournament started with Green, which ended its season at 5-12 —as the Bobcats had entered Wednesday with a four-game winning streak.

But the Titans tormented Green with 21 runs on 21 hits and 20 runs batted in —as seven separate Titans drew walks.

Ava Rush and fellow freshman sister Bella Rush with four hits apiece paced Notre Dame, as Soard, Maycee Ford and Maddie Entler added three each —as Entler and Bella Rush stole three bases apiece, with Rush scoring four runs.

Kyndall Ford’s hit was a two-run home run, as Soard also homered and Bella Rush tripled.

Entler, Bella Rush, Ava Rush, Soard and Maycee Ford all doubled —as Ford finished with a pair of two-baggers.

Maycee Ford and Bella Rush racked up four runs batted in, as Entler added three —and Ava Rush, Kyndall Ford and Soard all secured two.

Soard and Ava Rush recorded three runs scored, as Sparks and catcher Kate Entler added a single and an RBI —and Lyndsey Schaefer had the other hit with a single.

Now, the Titans tangle with another club in green —that being the Meigs Eastern Eagles on Monday.

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