Weaver’s personality part of Flashes’ success

COLUMBIANA — If you don’t come away feeling better about yourself, maybe you don’t have a soul.

That’s most people’s experience after talking to Champion softball coach Cheryl Weaver.

It’s her demeanor, something that has you at ease when you say hello and engage in conversation — something you rarely find these days.

When she calls in a box score, it turns into a 5- or 10-minute conversation. It’s not hard to see why her players find her so endearing and grasp her words as gospel.

I was intrigued, eagerly looking forward to Thursday’s game at Crestview High School.

Not even wind was going to blow away my anticipation.

That 35 mile per hour cross breeze coming from west to east, heading toward home plate, where this guy was standing to the left of backstop — near the Champion bench.

Felt good wearing a polo shirt and shorts. People were wearing hooded sweatshirts and bundled up. Hello? It’s spring. 70 degrees. Take advantage.

Note to self. Take folding chair out of wife’s vehicle before going to cover another softball or baseball game.

Steadying that scorebook on a metallic clipboard was easier with that vice-like grip. The reporter’s notebook on top, that was another issue.

It’s all good when you’re watching one of the best teams in the state.

Allison Smith blew away the Crestview hitters, some who weren’t too much taller than my fifth-grade daughter. Nine strikeouts. Facing 16 batters in a 10-0, five-inning game.

She felt bad hitting two batters. One was a riseball. The other dropped too early, nailing a Crestview batter’s ankle. Smith made her way over, making sure the Rebels player was fine. Great sportsmanship.

It’s a direct result of the teachings learned through the Champion system.

Weaver doesn’t see herself as immune. She knows her players. For that, it might keep the veteran coach safe as she’s stands in the third-base coaching box.

Champion had the tendency, especially among some hitters, to pull the ball — some of those hot-shot grounders were right at Weaver. The Golden Flashes coach did a quick two-step out of the way and smiled.

“I always have to be awake,” she said. “There’s certain girls you know, that you have to be on your toes.”

A lot of teams have found out that fact the hard way as Champion started the season 6-0 with all shutouts. Marlington, the closest to defeating the defending Division III state champions, took the Golden Flashes to extra innings before succumbing to a 1-0 defeat.

That’s before Friday’s game against an always-tough Akron Hoban team — the first of three games for Champion at the Akron Racers Spring Showcase this weekend at Firestone Stadium. Champion should know the site well. It’s where the Golden Flashes have been crowned state champions two of the past three seasons and four of the last seven.

The Racers, a professional softball team, call Firestone Stadium home.

Champion’s team looked the part of a defending state champion on Thursday. The pop on most of Smith’s whipping fastballs, heading directly for the target set by Gabby Hollenbaugh’s catcher’s mitt.

The eye test, something you could see right away from these Golden Flashes. Their size, their presence at bat and in the field said state champion.

Weaver wore a blue jacket, embroidered were some of the state championship years. It’s her influence on this team.

She spoke glowingly of her team’s performances. It didn’t even feel like coachspeak. Just a conversation.

You saw her and her team come away from the Crestview field, joking and celebrating another win.

Weaver is able to relate to her players, and to many others.

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