AKRON — Fathers and their daughters seem to have a special bond and that’s no different in the Piazza family.
Jim Piazza, Keystone’s softball coach, dreamed his daughter Brooke Piazza would have a special moment in Saturday’s Division II state championship game against West Branch at Firestone Stadium.
Dreams do come true.
It took four years and 12 grueling innings for this year’s senior class to realize its own dreams of winning a state championship. Keystone (34-0) won its fourth state title in school history by holding off West Branch 3-2 for the Division II title.
The coach’s dream was a little more personal.
“I woke up in the middle of the night,” Piazza said. “I had a dream and it was the exact same scenario. She got a hit in the exact same spot. That’s when I kind of lost it. It was unbelievable and I told her on the way here this dream I had.
“(In the dream she) had a big hit in the game to give us the lead and then it happened. My legs went weak. I just fell down. Couldn’t believe it. Wow, this is amazing.”
The dream became reality in the sixth inning when it appeared the Wildcats wrapped up the game. Senior Val Broschk started things off with a single but sophomore Marlie McNulty’s attempt at a sacrifice but went awry when the ball bounced up and hit her for the first out.
Broschk stole second, freshman Madi Herrington drew a walk and junior Autumn Acord was purposely walked to load the bases. Madi Nunez popped out to first bringing Brooke Piazza to the plate.
Coach Piazza called time just before his daughter stepped in the box, telling her to meet with him along the third base line.
“He said ‘This is the moment you’ve been waiting for since you were little, and I’m so proud of you,’” Brooke said of the short pep talk from her father.
“And I said, ‘This is your time,’” Coach Piazza said. “Your time to do it and, man, first pitch, she crushed it.”
Brooke’s liner up the middle gave Keystone a 2-0 lead. Things looked good for the Wildcats but two uncharacteristic errors opened the door for West Branch to tie the game in the bottom of the seventh.
The game stayed tied until there were two out in the 12th inning. Broschk singled to the right and stole second on a close play. McNulty then ripped the first pitch just inside the bag at first for a triple to bring in Broschk with what proved to be the winning run.
With two outs, West Branch had Peyton Alazaus on third but pitcher Sydney Campbell caught a soft comebacker and threw to Brooke Piazza at first and the championship was theirs.
Keystone graduated only five seniors off this team — Piazza’s daughter, Nunez, Broschk, Summer Metcalf and Ashley Buttolph.
“Our class has never been considered a great class,” Brooke Piazza said. “We’re one of the only classes to have been here four times. Speaking for Val, I know it meant a lot for her. Her sister did it and I’m very happy that she made her own history by scoring the winning run. I’m really happy for her.”
“It’s special and a lot of people don’t know we had this group in T-ball, 5-year olds, won a championship,” Coach Piazza said. “They won their first championship when they were 5 years old. Pretty cool they get to end their senior year doing the same thing.”
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