AKRON — If there was a shadow of doubt Saturday morning about who has the best softball team in Ohio, there was certainly none by early afternoon.
Top-ranked and undefeated North Canton Hoover, on its way to a three-peat as Division I state champion, resolved the issue with a remarkably easy 7-0 victory over No. 3 Elyria in Firestone Stadium.
The Vikings scored all seven runs with two outs.
Hoover (34-0) posted its seventh state title dating to 1998. It is the fifth for the Vikings in eight years. Three of the state final wins have been shutouts of Elyria.
The Pioneers’ season ended at 27-6.
Elyria coach Ken Fenik said that when the season began, he didn’t believe the Pioneers could go as far as they did.
“I told them that and they proved me wrong,” he said. “This is a great team, a super bunch of girls. And (Hoover is) a great team. (Pitcher Tara) Thacker does a great job. This is the era of North Canton Hoover. They’re No. 1 for a reason. But I’m very proud of us. We dealt with a lot of adversity this year.”
Hoover took a 1-0 lead in the third inning and added two runs in the fourth. The Vikings put their championship on ice with a four-run fifth inning in which they sent eight batters to the plate.
Meanwhile, Vikings pitcher Tara Thacker threw a three-hitter in which she struck out six and walked only one. She had a one-hitter — Holly Howser’s third-inning single — going until Kaitlin Laseke singled with two outs in the fifth. Howser also singled in the seventh.
Thacker said she kept the Pioneers off balance with her screwball and riser. And, she said, scoring the first run was important.
“It helps, obviously, to have a lead, but we still had the goal in mind (to score) more runs,” she said. “Our mindset was that we still needed to score and that one run wasn’t enough.”
Freshman star Carly Bachna was the only Pioneer to reach third base. She did it in the fourth inning after walking and moving around on Patty Davis’s sacrifice and Alexis Roseboro’s grounder to the right side. Madison Fullmer — running for Howser in the third — and Howser — in the seventh — made it to second base.
Otherwise, there were no Pioneers threats.
Hoover coach Jerry Goodpasture was asked about his team’s ability to hold Elyria scoreless in three state championship games.
“I haven’t thought about that, but I guess we’ve had some good pitching,” he said. “I’ve said many times when you get to the final two, you better play some defense and have good pitching. That’s what we had today and we had it the other day, too (in the semifinal win over Mentor). As long as that continues, we’re all right.”
On the brighter side, the Pioneers made some good defensive plays. As she did in Thursday’s semifinal victory over Mason, junior Kaitlin Laseke made a running, diving catch of a fly ball in center field.
Third baseman Bachna turned in two defensive gems. On the first, she fooled Hoover’s Mackenzie DiPietro into wandering too far off second base, then nailed her with a throw to MacKenzie Phares. Later, she made a nice stop of a grounder hit by the Vikings’ Jenna Lilley and threw her out at first.
“That was a play we were putting on,” Bachna said of catching DiPietro off base. “I knew I wasn’t going to get (the batter) at first anyway and (DiPietro) had her lead so I got her.”
And catcher Haley Looney, playing her final high school game, ran into the backstop to grab a foul pop off Thacker’s bat in the fifth inning.
“To get this far, I think was huge,” Looney said. “As seniors coming here for the third time, I think you have to be proud of it. It’s a good thing.”
Contact Bob Daniels at 329-7135 or firstname.lastname@example.org.