AKRON — To say that sportswriters don’t root for ANYTHING…is in fact a lie.
We, us, they root big time.
At least for realistic deadlines, often no extra innings or overtimes, food and drink and a workspace to be provided, good and uninterrupted working Wi-Fi, that good sole storyline to write about —and most importantly our coverage area coaches and players to win so as to make the postgame press conference so much easier.
Indeed, this is the part of the profession which cuts like a sharp knife both ways.
When Wheelersburg made its final out on Saturday in its 10-8 Division III softball state semifinal loss, my thoughts shifted to that OHSAA obligatory, mostly mandatory, postgame press conference —and how difficult, even uncomfortable, that would be in talking to three tearful Lady Pirates.
Naturally, as expected, two sobbing seniors — Boo Sturgill and Rylie Hughes — came in along with Wheelersburg coach Teresa Ruby, along with freshman pitcher Andi Jo Howard.
I’m willing to bet anything the last place that quartet wanted to be was in a press conference answering media members’ questions after that loss —which was the final game in the outstanding Pirate careers of Sturgill and Hughes.
But Howard might have been the most upset of the three, as she gave up 15 hits and 10 earned runs to a quality and fellow 26-1 Fairview club — a hitting unit that was just as good as the powerhouse Pirates, and which ultimately captured Sunday’s state championship.
“I know I didn’t have my best stuff today. I came in just trying to attack, and I missed my spots a few times and it hurt,” said Howard, through tears.
Speaking of hurting, Howard —just a freshman remember in the biggest game of her young life — was.
And Ruby said Howard, as the press conference closed, said “Jo will take this hard”.
I don’t doubt that for one bit, but I want to tell Howard this.
She’s too good a player, a pitcher, and probably person to keep her head down and sulk about it for very long — let alone three more years.
In fact, I won’t be one bit surprised if Howard follows the path of her sister Faith with Wheelersburg —and AndiJo pitches in the state tournament for all four of her high school seasons.
And, like Faith, dominates at the state from here on out.
“As much as I can, I try to separate Faith and AndiJo, and not do comparisons. Jo will take this hard. Reminds me a lot again of when Faith first year (2015) came up here, she got run-ruled. Faith then came back and owned all the games after that,” said Ruby. “I don’t expect anything less from Jo. She will wear this for a while until she gets back up here and sheds it.”
Already a champion with Wheelersburg’s 2018 Little League World Series Championship team, Howard — in my view — will pick herself up, pitch even better for three more seasons, and makes sure she never feels like she did on Saturday ever again.
And speaking of wearing, like Faith from the 2016 team, Andi Jo is bound to wear a gold championship ring — or two or three —when Wheelersburg holds its graduation ceremony for the class of 2024.
Sturgill’s HR shot
heard ‘round ‘Burg
There’s of course, for those of us which appreciate history, Bobby Thomson’s 1951 “Shot Heard ‘Round the World’”.
You youngsters will have to Google it and read it up.
But Sturgill’s two-out two-run home run in the second inning of Saturday’s state semifinal, now THAT was a shot heard all the way from Firestone Stadium in Akron all the way back to Wheelersburg.
It appeared clear of the left-centerfield fence the moment it left Boo’s bat, and put the Pirates up 4-1 — their largest lead of the entire game.
Sturgill spoke about it in the postgame presser, which ended up being her final home run in Orange and Black.
It was Wheelersburg’s biggest highlight of the game, and absolutely energized the Pirate faithful inside Firestone Stadium.
“I was really excited. I just knew going into the at-bat that my team had my back and I went into the box not thinking about anything,” said Sturgill. “I was relaxed and just ready to be myself. That’s how I approached every at-bat today. I just left my heart on the field as much as I could, and just did everything I could to produce for my team.”
That included smacking hard Ruby’s hand in celebration as she rounded third base.
“She broke my hand,” joked the coach. “Going to urgent care.”
Reach Paul Boggs at (740) 353-3101 ext. 1926, by email at [email protected], or on Twitter @BoggsSports © 2021 Portsmouth Daily Times, all rights reserved