AKRON — Wheelersburg softball head coach Teresa Ruby opined that Saturday night’s postgame press conference was actually — arguably — the most subdued she had heard her sophomore second baseman Haley Myers speak.
“I hope we have a video of this because this is the most modest you’ll ever find this kid (Myers),” said Ruby, amid laughter in the media room. “We were walking back from eating, and she said ‘You know Coach, I haven’t had any errors since the South Webster game (March 30 season-opening 6-5 in nine innings win). I mean I had errors that game, I hadn’t had one since.”
Myers briefly interjected, explaining she made four that late March day.
Two months later, and Myers —both defensively and offensively —made her biggest impact as a Pirate to date, during Wheelersburg’s pair of 5-2 Division III state tournament triumphs inside Akron’s Firestone Stadium.
On Friday, the Pirates scored the final four runs for a 5-2 semifinal victory over Cardington-Lincoln, then held off Massillon Tuslaw 5-2 on Saturday night to take their second all-time state softball championship.
And, predictably, the middle infielder Myers was right in the middle of it all.
Against Cardington, Myers made three defensive assists and two putouts —and went 2-for-4 batting with two runs scored.
Against Tuslaw, it was two putouts and two assists, and again a 2-for-4 with two runs scored plate performance.
In fact, her four basehits at state —all singles —all came consecutive, and she subsequently scored Pirate points from those same at-bats.
Defensively, her best web gem — in the eyes of most observers — was in the semifinal’s seventh inning, in which Myers made a fantastic running and over-the-shoulder kinda catch, and almost in true right field in order to do so.
The degree of difficulty from the judges in Akron was a 9.5, so Myers made it a perfect 10.
But bigger picture, with all the media attention over the weekend on Wheelersburg junior slugger Macee Eaton and her home run barrage—and even sophomore starting pitcher AndiJo Howard and her bid for redemption —Myers maybe flew under the radar.
However, the jack-of-all-trades “Deuce” came up aces indeed for these Pirate queens.
“I’m just trying to produce for my team,” said Myers. “I know when I get on base, they have to make a decision if they (opposition) are going to pitch to Macee or (intentionally) walk her. Putting that decision up for their coaches is iffy. Then I just want to have my team’s back, knowing when AndiJo (Howard) or Kaylynn (Carter) pitches, I am going to be there making the plays.”
Her most memorable play probably was that seventh-stanza defensive catch in the outfield grass, with Wheelersburg leading 5-2 — and Howard was cruising along inside the pitcher’s circle.
Ruby seemed to think so, almost immediately.
“Was that not an amazing catch?” said the coach. “After our infield work in practice, we work on those plays with random pop-ups. A lot of infield goes until outfield calls, a lot of those. The fact that she can go and trust, because of the language and everything that we’ve used, that’s why that play happened. ‘Deuce’ (Myers) is one of those kids that you would like to have 20 of them. I mean she would run headfirst through that wall for any of her teammates. She really would. And I’m not kidding you. She would. That play was huge because it just took that edge off of getting that first out.”
It was considered maybe that game’s most “underappreciated” play —as Myers’ two singles, leadoff jobs in the fifth and seventh inning, set up Eaton in the fifth and Sidney Skiver with two outs in the seventh to double her home.
Her fifth-inning race-around from first on Eaton’s double put the Pirates in front 3-2, and ahead for the remainder of the Division III state tournament.
“The key to that is the leadoff hit by Haley Myers, getting on base in front of her (Eaton),” explained Ruby. “It was late in the game. I thought they would walk Macee early on, but the later we got in the game, if we get people on base and it was a tight game, I knew that sometime they would have to pitch to her.”
On Saturday night, in the title tilt versus Tuslaw, Myers simply picked up from where she left off from Friday.
With Wheelersburg batting first, the first five Pirates all reached base off Tuslaw hurler Meridith Rankl— Catie Boggs was hit by a pitch, Myers singled to left, Eaton was walked intentionally for the third time out of four in the tournament, and Howard helped her cause by singling in Boggs and Myers.
Skiver singled to center, then singled in Myers for a 3-0 advantage in the third —as Eaton was walked intentionally again, and Howard hit by a Rankl pitch.
In the bottom of the first, the Mustangs made it interesting with a one-out single and Rankl reaching on an error, but on a ground ball by the next Mustang hit right to Myers —she fielded it cleanly, tagged out Rankl, and fired on to first base for the official 4-3 double play.
Finally, in the sixth, after Kaylynn Carter relieved Howard following Rankl’s leadoff double off the centerfield fence, Myers made an important first out — with a routine fielding of a grounder.
“The thing about ‘Deuce’ is her ball knowledge. You can’t really teach a kid to have that ball sense. Just those little things that are huge and don’t go in the scorebook and people who don’t know the game don’t notice,” said Ruby. “These kids will tell you that ‘Deuce’ is a gamer.”
And now, an even maybe more modest Myers is part of a state championship club —with two more attempts remaining.
“It’s an amazing feeling,” she said. “Really indescribable honestly.”
Reach Paul Boggs at (740) 353-3101 ext. 1926, by email at [email protected], or on Twitter @paulboggssports © 2022 Portsmouth Daily Times, all rights reserved