Blue wave in softball

AAC Blue Tier teams roll into district final; Champion wins 10-0

Tribune Chronicle / Marc Weems Champion sophomore Sophie Howell fires to the plate Tuesday against Kirtland. Howell struck out 10 as the Golden Flashes won, 10-0, in six innings.

LEAVITTSBURG — In its quest for another softball state championship, Champion took another step by beating Kirtland, 10-0 in six innings, in a Division III district semifinal game at LaBrae High School.

The Golden Flashes, the defending Division III state champions, face LaBrae today at 5 p.m. on the Vikings’ field in the district title game.

Pitching was huge for Champion (24-0) in this game as Sophie Howell came out blazing. She recorded all three outs on strikeouts in the first inning to get the Golden Flashes moving.

The Golden Flashes threatened in the bottom of the first inning but Kirtland held them without a run. After Howell struck out the side in the top of the second inning, Champion broke open the scoreless game.

“It’s really nice knowing that I have a team that will back me up and I have reassurance. If for some reason I give up a hit or something happens in the field, I know they’ll be there for me,” Howell said.

Champion's Megan Turner throws to first base Tuesday in the Flashes' win over Kirtland.

Abby White got the second inning going as she hit a second-pitch triple. She scored on a Gabby Hollenbaugh RBI single to give them a 1-0 lead.

After a scoreless third inning in which Howell collected two more strikeouts, Champion ground out another run in the bottom half.

Allison Smith led off the inning with a single and Megan Turner brought her home with a triple of her own to give Champion a 2-0 lead.

Kirtland got one of its two hits on an Elizabeth Vernon single but couldn’t do anything with it.

“We’ve been hitting the ball all season but you’re going to have those games where you don’t. It’s great that we were able to put some things together and play really smart,” Champion coach Cheryl Weaver said. “That’s what it is going to take, along with taking advantage of passed balls as we did.”

Champion scored again on some tough, timely hitting. White got it going with a walk and later scored on an error. Hollenbaugh reached on an error and scored on an RBI groundout by Smith.

After the Hornets were set down in order yet again by Howell, Champion’s offense came alive in the bottom of the fifth inning.

It all started with a Turner walk followed by an Emma Gumont single. Kiersten Jones hit an RBI single to make it 5-0. Two at-bats laters, Carli Swipas knocked a single that scored two runs to give the Flashes a 7-0 lead.

Swipas and Howell scored after that to make it 9-0.

“This lets us know that we can beat these bigger and better teams. We can compete at this level and just keep growing as a team,” Howell said.

Champion tacked on a run to end the game in the sixth inning.

“We have to give LaBrae credit. They are playing really good ball right now. We have to have all the respect in the world for them. We have a goal for ourselves and we have to meet it,” said Weaver, who last week earned her 400th career win at Champion.