AKRON — The Wheelersburg Lady Pirates will play for the program’s second state championship on Saturday.
‘Burg defeated Cardington Lincoln 5-2 in the second of two Division III state semifinals at Akron’s Firestone Stadium on Friday — earning their spot in the D-III state title game.
“Thrilled. We felt like we prepared a lot for this game, kids executed it exactly the way we wanted them to,” Wheelersburg coach Teresa Ruby said, after the game. “Good game between two excellent teams.”
Wheelersburg got on the scoreboard first in their very first trip to the plate.
Freshman Catie Boggs reached on a C-L fielding error and later scored when sophomore Rileigh Lang drew a walk with the bases loaded.
After the top of the first, ‘Burg led 1-0.
C-L took a 2-1 lead in the bottom of the first when senior Riley Burchett connected on a two-out, two run home run — scoring senior Hailee Edgell who reached with a two-out single.
From that point on, Wheelersburg sophomore pitcher AndiJo Howard and their defense played shutout softball in the field.
Howard allowed just two hits across the final six innings while walking none and striking out five.
“100-percent, yes,” Ruby said, approving of her team’s performance in the field. “We gave up a couple of bunts to the lead-off batter but we threw her out at second base. We talked about wanting to keep them off the bases, not letting them rush us.”
“I’m extremely happy, I didn’t want to feel what I felt last year — I don’t want to feel it tomorrow,” Howard said. “I gave up one pitch to a girl I play travel ball with. Credit to her for being ready for that.”
Lady Pirates junior Macee Eaton was intentionally walked to start the top of the third and later that frame, made C-L pay for the decision.
With runners at first and third after sophomore Sydney Skiver walked with one out, Eaton and Skiver stole at the corners. Eaton would score the game’s tying run after Skiver was tagged out at second, evening the score at 2-2.
Sophomore Haley Myers singled to start ‘Burg’s top of the fifth.
In her first at-bat in which she wasn’t intentionally walked, Eaton again made C-L regret their decision by driving in Myers all the way from first base with an RBI double to give the Lady Pirates a 3-2 advantage.
“I’ve worked on it all season,” Eaton said. “Understanding that sometimes they don’t want to pitch to me, but every time they mess up I want to take the opportunity and crush it.”
“The key to that is the lead-off hit by Haley Myers, getting on base in front of her,” Ruby said.
Eaton would score from third base again in the fifth on two C-L errors by shortstop Riley Burchett, giving ‘Burg its’ largest lead at 4-2.
“I think people forget about that too,” Ruby said, of Eaton’s base running. “We knew we wanted to be aggressive on the bases, we identified we might be able to run and we took advantage of it.”
Myers would lead the seventh inning off with a single — her second time doing so in the final three innings.
Skiver delivered with two outs, driving in Myers from first with an RBI double to expand the Lady Pirates’ lead to 5-2.
The bottom of the seventh was the fourth time in the game Howard and the Lady Pirates faced the minimum number of batters — ending C-L’s chances with a three-up, three-down frame to seal the deal.
The orange and black faithful who made the near four hour trip to Akron’s Firestone Stadium for the state semifinals will stick around for Saturday’s championship.
Wheelersburg’s players said they felt the support — both on hand in Summitt County and back home in Scioto County.
“They had a huge crowd, we live four hours away, they live an hour and a half away. Or crowd was just as loud or louder,” Howard said.
“Our community is amazing — we’re like a big family,” Eaton said.
The Lady Pirates will face Massillon Tuslaw in the Division III state championship on Saturday, June 4 at 7 p.m.
Tuslaw defeated Casstown Miami East 6-1 in the first D-III state semifinal on Friday.
It will be Ruby’s third state championship game as the Lady Pirates coach and her player’s first — but the message to her team remains the same as its been for the duration of their postseason run.
“It’s not any different than it has been in any other game. We’ll get back to the hotel, kids want to eat good — they eat good all the time,” Ruby said. “Let them enjoy it for a little bit, then we’ll start working on the scouting report and what we need to be aware of.”
Wheelersburg 1 0 1 0 2 0 1 — 5 7 1
Cardington-Lincoln 2 0 0 0 0 0 0 — 2 4 3
Catie Boggs 0-4, R
Haley Myers 2-4, 2R
Macee Eaton 1-2, 2R, RBI, 2BB
Sydney Skiver 2-3, RBI
Rileigh Lang 0-1, RBI, BB
Laken Wright 1-3
Brynley Preston 1-2
Mikayla Linkous 1-3
Hailee Edgell 1-2, R
Riley Burchett 1-2, R, 2RBI, HR
Abbi Hardwick 1-2
AndiJo Howard (W) 7IP, 4H, 2ER, 0BB, 5K, 0HBP (W)
Genevieve Longsdorf (C-L) 7IP, 7H, 3ER, 4BB, 2K, 1HBP (L)
Reach Jacob Smith at (740) 370-0713 ext. 1930, by email at [email protected], or on Twitter @JacobSmithPDT © 2022 Portsmouth Daily Times, all rights reserved