Defense does it for Flashes
AKRON — In a game that ended in a 2-1 win over Richwood North Union in eight innings, two things went very well for Champion on Friday: pitching and defense.
For the Golden Flashes, those two things were important. The Flashes scored their runs in seventh and eighth innings.
On the mound, Sophie Howell was doing everything she could to keep Champion in the game. She recorded the second-most strikeouts of her young career with 17. She had 21 against Erie McDowell in an 11-inning win.
“I told her (Champion coach Cheryl Weaver) that every time we’ve been beaten here, we lost to the state champion, so no pressure. We shouldn’t have let two girls beat us,” North Union coach Dawn Draper said. “I knew it was going to be a battle. I thought it would work toward our benefit.”
Champion’s defense was errorless just as North Union’s was. That big-time defense for the Flashes also kept base hits off the board.
The big-time defense all began with Emma Gumont in center field. In the bottom of the fourth inning, North Union’s Madison Ruhl drove a ball into deep left-center field. Gumont ranged back with a full extension and recorded the third out of the inning.
“Emma was amazing out there. She made a lot of great plays. Even the home run, she almost pulled it back in. She’s just a really great centerfielder and I’m glad to have her,” Howell said. “It was in her glove and then it fell out.”
Weaver said that Gumont’s arm “was scratched up and couldn’t bend no more than it did.”
Gumont also came up big in the bottom of the eighth. She was playing deep for a power hitter and had to run in quite a ways to record the second out of the inning.
This isn’t the first time Gumont made a great play in the postseason. In Champion’s regional semifinal game against Akron Manchester, Gumont stole a home run from over the fence to preserve the win.
Defense, along with pitching, has been a huge part of the Flashes’ success all year long.
“We all play as a team and we play together. We take control in the field. When there is a fly ball, we all scream to who has it. We are all in control and that’s a good thing,” Champion third baseman Abby White said.
Champion’s defense is part of why it has gotten back to the state championship game and will look to defend it’s title today at 7 p.m. at Akron Firestone Stadium.