Golden Flashes’ offense zaps Brookfield

LEAVITTSBURG — For the second year in a row, the Champion Golden Flashes softball team made a Division III district semifinal against Brookfield one to forget for the Warriors.

The Flashes’ bats lit up on Thursday like they did a year ago, but instead of small ball like 2016, Champion hit five home runs and went 18-for-35 at the plate in a 19-0 rout.

The win advances Champion to its eighth straight district title game appearance and the Flashes will look to win their third district championship in a row. The top-seeded Flashes will play sixth-seeded Kirtland at LaBrae High School today at 5:30.

“The girls came out swinging. We went and played Massillon Perry, Crestwood,” Champion coach Cheryl Weaver said about regular season games scheduled between last week’s sectional final and Thursday’s district semifinal.

“The girls weren’t happy with the way they performed, hitting. We faced three very good pitchers when we did that and I’m not taking anything away from anybody else, but yesterday at practice, they were like, ‘We don’t want that happening again.’ We just hit and hit and hit, and they came out today like gangbusters, what can I say?”

A year ago, the Warriors allowed five runs in the first inning of a 10-0 district semifinal loss to the Flashes and Warriors coach Ken Forsythe said before the game that his team would have to play perfect to beat Champion.

Unfortunately for Brookfield (11-6), the first inning of Thursday’s semifinal looked like deja vu once again. Molly Williams’ one-out single was followed by Megan Turner’s two-run blast over the left-centerfield fence.

Abby White then had a two-out single up the middle to bring in Hannah Gresch. After one inning, the Flashes had a 3-0 advantage, but their potent offense was far from done.

In the bottom of the second, Allison Smith drilled a home run to deep left, before Turner hit yet another two-run homer, extending the score to 6-0. Gresch then hit a two-out home run to right-centerfield to give Champion its fourth run of the inning.

“We came out and I thought we played better (than last year),” Forsythe said. “Our minds were better, it’s just (Champion) hit some hard balls. You ain’t gonna stop them without giving some runs up–they hit the ball up in the zone a couple times and they knew where we were gonna put it.”

Champion (26-2) was only getting started, however. The Flashes sent 17 batters to the plate in the third inning, resulting in 11 more runs to extend the lead to 18-0, including Turner’s third, two-run home run of the day. She finished 3-for-3 with three dingers and six RBIs.

All told, Champion had eight hits and drew two walks, while Brookfield committed six of its seven errors in the third frame alone. Nine of the 12 Flashes hitters had at least one hit on the day, while Williams went 4-for-4 with a double and a pair of RBIs, and Smith went 3-for-4 with a homer, a double and three RBIs.

The combination of Champion’s powerful offense and the pitching of senior McKenzie Zigmont — who had three strikeouts and allowed just four hits in a complete-game shutout against Brookfield — has Champion poised to make a run at its second state title in three years.

“(Zigmont’s) been wonderful. She’s 2-0 (in the tournament), so that’s something,” Weaver said, laughing. “If she can keep this going, and the offense doing that, we should be all right. But, you can’t take anybody lightly.

“(We haven’t faced) Kirtland (this season), but when you go back the years in the past, we had to face them in the tournaments and they were always tough. Nothing’s easy and you just gotta work and battle through it.”