Flashes continue run for 3 in a row

LEAVITTSBURG — As the debate goes on concerning the most dominating high school athletic program in area history, there is no question that the team playing softball in Champion cannot be left out of the discussion.

The two-time defending state champion Golden Flashes (24-2) advanced to another district title game by dismantling Conneaut, 20-0, on Wednesday in a Division III LaBrae District semifinal.

The Flashes punished Conneaut pitching by pounding out seven home runs in the contest. Champion started early, and never let up, scoring 4 times in the first.

“The bats certainly came alive today,” Champion coach Cheryl Weaver said. “Seven home runs in a game, I would have never expected that. The girls were pumped, and ready to play, and they showed it.”

Champion scored five more times in the second before putting eight runs on the board in the third. The scoring outburst was highlighted by starting pitcher Allison Smith’s second blast of the contest. Smith appeared to simply put the bat on the ball, and the ball exploded over the fence on an opposite field shot.

Smith has put up some staggering numbers again this season. The junior phenom now has 15 home runs and a .470 batting average. She and teammate Sophie Howell (1.82 ERA, 152 K’s, 77 innings) have been dominant inside the pitching circle over the last two seasons.

Smith recently missed another perfect game with a hit batsmen as her only blemish in her previous start. She yielded just one hit against Conneaut. Her pitching numbers are off the charts, compiling 178 strikeouts in 82 innings with a minuscule 0.17 ERA.

“I’ve been in a little bit of a hitting slump,” Smith said. ” After practice everyday, Dad and I would stay after for like an hour or so and work. Today, it paid off. I tried to stay smooth in the box.

“I’ve thrown a couple more no-hitters this year. I missed that perfect game by hitting a girl in the foot. I have a great defense behind me. It’s to my teammates’ credit that I’ve been able to toss as many no-hitters as I have.”

With the score 17-0 in the fourth, junior Hannah Gresch pinch hit for Emma Gumont, a sophomore who already had homered twice and drove in five runs. Gresch crushed a 3-run shot over the wall. Cassidy Shaffer (team-leading .578 average), and senior Abby White also homered.

“I always feel confident stepping into the batters box, even coming off the bench,” Gresch said. ” We’re excited to play a good team tomorrow.”

The Flashes will play Newton Falls today at 4:30 for the district title.

“We have to be ready for Newton Falls,” Weaver said. ” To beat a good team three times is tough. The girls will have to be up like they were today.”

“We know it’s going to be an exciting one tomorrow,” Smith said. ” Newton Falls is one of our rivals. Tara Backherms is pitching great for them. They scored six runs against LaBrae. That’s impressive against their pitching.

“As long as we play like we did today, we were smooth and having fun, we’re going to be hard to beat this year.”