Flashes inch closer to league title

LEAVITTSBURG – The Champion softball team has a bit of business to take care of before it begins defense of its Division III state crown in a few days.

Entering the week, the Golden Flashes needed to sweep LaBrae on Monday and Tuesday in order to lay claim to the All-American Conference, Blue Tier championship before they could turn their attention to the sectional tournament.

They succeeded in taking the first half of the home-and-home series with a 9-0 victory over the Vikings at LaBrae on Monday. The win clinched at least a tie for the league title with Newton Falls.

“It was good for us to have a big win,” Champion coach Cheryl Weaver said. “The girls can go out (today) and know they can hit the ball, they can beat this team. You’ve got to look for the positives and keep the kids’ heads up all the time.”

The loss knocked LaBrae (13-7, 8-3) out of contention for the AAC crown.

Champion (20-4, 12-1) made good use of a pair of first-inning errors by the LaBrae defense in taking a 2-0 lead in the top half of the inning.

“The girls set the tone early,” Weaver said. “There were some errors, but we hit the ball hard. When you hit the ball hard, good things will happen. That’s key.”

“They hit the ball,” LaBrae coach Demetra Noble said. “We also set the tone with a couple of errors right out of the gate. I would’ve changed out (my pitcher), but to be honest, we have a lot of injuries. We had to play through it and work for what’s next.”

Abby White and pinch-hitter Jackie Mulvain each singled in the fifth and scored on Gabby Hollenbaugh’s single to make it 4-0.

“It’s great to know you can have a couple of girls you can rely on and put them in when you need to and they can get a hit when you need them to,” Weaver said. “Jackie did just what we wanted her to. Good for her and good for Gabby. It’s hard to decide who to put in there every day. They’re both good. They’re both good, hard hitters. I just have to go by feel.”

White added an RBI single in the sixth. Pitcher McKenzie Zigmont had a two-run single, catcher Molly Williams had a run-scoring double and Amber Ricci added an RBI single in the seventh as the Golden Flashes finished with 16 hits.

“I’m so proud,” Weaver said. “It’s fabulous to have that many hits. (LaBrae) is a good team. I know they’ve struggled with some injuries, but a lot of teams have had to do that along the way. This was a good win.”

Zigmont struck out seven and scattered six hits in the shutout.

“Kenzie did a great job,” Weaver said. “She’s done such a fabulous job all season. My hat’s off to her. I know she’s ready to take this further. I’m very excited for her. She and Molly work so good together. I give a lot of credit to Molly, too. She calls the pitches. They’re a good battery.”

“She pitched well,” Noble said. “And we did not come to the plate.”