Lightning strikes

Flashes win in 8 innings with 2 HRs, excellent pitching

060118...R CHAMPION 6...Akron...06-01-18...Champion #6 Allison Smith is congratulatd by Champion Head Coach Cheryl Weaver, left, as she rounds 3rd base and heads for home after hitting a go ahead home run in the 8th inning against North Union...by R. Michael Semple

AKRON — In games like this, it is a shame that a team has to lose after such a great performance.

In a Division III state semifinal on Friday, Champion defeated Richwood North Union, 2-1, in eight innings at Firestone Park. Champion (30-0) will now face Cardington-Lincoln tonight at 7 for the DIII championship.

“We had looked up North Union and it was like looking in the mirror. We knew it was going to be a good game. You can’t ask for much more than that,” Champion coach Cheryl Weaver said. “This has got to be the tightest win. These girls are trying to give me a heart attack.”

Friday’s game was a pitchers’ duel through and through. For North Union (25-3), Madison Wedding was great, and on Champion’s side, Sophie Howell was excellent.

Wedding got out of the first few innings with nothing more than a single here and some pop-ups that found gloves. Wedding got through all eight innings on just 91 pitches.

060118...R CHAMPION 3...Akron...06-01-18...Champion pitcher #14 Sophie Howell is all smiles as the last out is made against North Union...by R. Michael Semple

Howell, on the other hand, was a strikeout machine. On 108 pitches in eight innings, she recorded 17 strikeouts in the game.

“I was just trying to focus and attack the batters. I just tried to find their weaknesses throughout the game. Even if they put it in play, make it somewhat easy so my defense can back me up,” Howell said. “I was mixing things up a lot. I was moving inside and outside. I also threw a lot of rise balls.”

In the bottom of the fourth, Champion center fielder Emma Gumont made the first of two great plays that potentially saved a run.

Other than that, through six innings nothing more than a leadoff double by Megan Turner in the fifth inning was really of note. Then, in the top of the seventh inning, things happened.

With two outs and a 3-2 count, Abby White smacked her first career home run at the high school level to give Champion a 1-0 lead.

060118...R CHAMPION 4...Akron...06-01-18...Champion celebrates beating North Union in 8 innings...by R. Michael Semple

“I was just hitting for a base hit. That’s all I do. I always tell coach Weaver that I’m always following a home run hitter so I just want a hit,” White said. “I was just looking for a base hit up the middle and it got past everyone I guess. Steve (Smith) told me to let up once I got to first. It felt great.”

North Union didn’t wait to respond however. The Wildcats tied the game in the bottom of the seventh on a 1-0 pitch as Avery Clark drilled a ball to centerfield. Gumont nearly had it in her glove but it fell out and over the fence to tie the game.

The Golden Flashes responded right back in the top of the eighth inning. Allison Smith crushed a two-out solo home run on an 0-2 pitch to give Champion the go-ahead run.

“It’s just a relieving feeling when everything comes together. Like today, I didn’t have my best hitting day. I actually swung and misses at multiple pitches and I think I’m still spinning in my shoes,” Smith said. “I just got lucky and it happened to go out when the team needed it the most.”

Smith said that she went into the box just trying to protect as she was 0-for-3 at the time.

060118...R CHAMPION 7...Akron...06-01-18...Champion #6 Allison Smith hits the go ahead winning home run in the 8th inning against North Union...by R. Michael Semple


060118...R CHAMPION 1...Akron...06-01-18...Champion #25 Abby White, right, gets a big hug from her father Steve White at the end of the extra inning game against North Union...Abby hit her first ever home run in the 7th inning...by R. Michael Semple

060118...R CHAMPION 5...Akron...06-01-18...Champion #25 Abby White hits a home run, her first ever, against North Union in the 7th inning to take the lead 1-0...by R. Michael Semple