AKRON — The orange and black of the Wheelersburg Lady Pirates will go toe-to-toe with the burgundy and gold of the South Range (Canfield, Ohio) Lady Raiders for an OHSAA Division III State Softball Championship Saturday afternoon at Firestone Stadium in Akron, Ohio.
Wheelersburg finds itself in the state championship round for the second time in the 39-year history of the OHSAA State Softball Tournament. The Lady Pirates first appeared in the state finals 12 years ago, in 2004. Since then, Wheelersburg had never advanced to the state round until last year, when the Lady Pirates played in the state semi-final round, losing to Bloom-Carrol 10-0.
This year however, the Lady Pirates entered the state tournament the number one ranked team in Division III and favored to win a state title. To do so, Wheelersburg will have to overcome the 30-3 South Range Lady Raiders.
“We know we’re going to play some quality opponents,” Wheelersburg softball coach Teresa Ruby said. “We just need to continue what we do and that’s quality at-bats, quality pitching, solid defense and good things will happen for us.”
Ruby said as long as her squad continues to do what they’ve done all year, playing quality softball, then they don’t need to focus a lot on what every other team does.
The Lady Pirates stuck around after their state semifinal win over Johnstown-Monroe to do a little scouting on their opponent in the state championship game.
“We’re going to see who we got and what we’re going to be up against,” Ruby said. “We’re going to see what we need to get prepared for, for Saturday.”
Wheelersburg enters Saturday’s game with a lot of momentum, which Ruby hopes her team will use to play their best and capture a state championship.
“Momentum is always big in games,” Ruby said. “A lot of times it’s the first one to blink. Today was one of those situations. Momentum and confidence goes a long, long way in winning a championship.”
Fueling that momentum for the Lady Pirates is another preseason goal being met, making it further than last year’s team. Last season, Wheelersburg fell in the state semifinal round, but this year, the Lady Pirates were able to advance to the state finals, where they hope to win it all.
“We made it one step further, but our true goal is to win the state championship,” Ruby said. “That’s Saturday. We’ve talked about different phases, where we can’t look to the end and now, we’ve finally made it to the end.”
Ruby has been pleased with the way her girls have handled themselves this season.
“They’ve been very business-like, very focused,” Ruby said. “I thought when we came out today (Thursday) we really had good energy and I expect the same thing on Saturday.”
The Lady Pirates remained in Akron Friday, where Ruby already had plans for her team.
“We’re going to try to do something together,” Ruby said. “Try to take their mind off of it for just a little bit. We’re going to relax a lot and then we’re going to practice and get ready for Saturday.”
Despite a group activity Friday, it will still be business as usual for Wheelersburg, as Ruby will have her team ready to compete for a state championship.
Reach Michael Hamilton at 740-353-3101, ext 1931, or on Twitter @MikeHamilton82.