WELLINGTON — Four-peat. Complete.
Firelands/South Amherst faced its toughest test of the season Sunday in the Ohio Hot Stove Class D (age 15-18) state championship game but just like it has for the last 36 games and past four state tournaments, it passed with flying colors.
Pitcher Abby McCollough overcame pregame jitters to make her first start of the season one to remember and Zoey Duchoslav’s seventh-inning RBI single drove in Kiley Boutin with what proved to be the game-winning run in a 7-5 victory over Lorain at Wellington Community Park.
The win gave the team its fourth consecutive state title, the first three coming in the Ohio Girls Softball Organization.
Firelands (11-0) knew it could potentially be missing some of its top players due to travel ball commitments so coach Will Leatherbury texted McCollough early in the day and told her to be ready to be in the pitchers circle for the biggest game of the year.
“When I got the text I was like, ‘I’m starting pitching? I’m not just starting in the lineup but I’m going to be pitching?’ I was in awe, I was startled,” McCollough said. “I was a little nervous at the start of the game but I just love my team. I knew I could depend on them to come through and help me out.”
The Firelands/South Amherst offense staked McCollough to 4-0 first-inning lead but Lorain came back with three runs in the bottom of the first.
McCollough settled down to hold Lorain to two runs over the next five innings.
“I can’t be any more proud of that girl, she played her heart out tonight,” Leatherbury said of McCollough.
With the score tied at 5 in the seventh, Boutin hit a two-out, ground-rule double, giving Duchoslav the chance to be the offensive hero.
“It was amazing. I hit it and I felt it come off the sweet spot on the bat and it felt great,” said Duchoslav, who has been on the team for its entire championship run. “Every time we win it feels better and better. It’s amazing. There’s really no words to describe it.”
After a Lorain error allowed Duchoslav to advance to third, Grace Jones singled her home to give Firelands/South Amherst a two-run lead.
Almost as if it were scripted, Ashley Strauss, Firelands/South Amherst’s starting pitcher for most of its four-year run and one of the players who had travel ball commitments Sunday came sprinting into the park in the seventh inning dragging her equipment bag behind her. She made it in time to enter the game in the bottom half of the inning and record the save.
“In the four years we’ve been doing this, this had to be the most nerve-wracking game right there. I can’t even put it into words,” Leatherbury said. “This is probably my favorite team that I’ve coached. … I wish I had them all for another year.”
Katelyn Janis scored a pair of runs for Lorain, which came into the game with a four-game winning streak after having to win its way through the consolation bracket just to earn the right to play for a state title.
Two other teams completed perfect seasons Sunday by hoisting state championship trophies.
Midview Reaser Construction (19-0) defeated Buckeye Hartshorn 12-6 to win the Class A (age 9-10) championship and Midview Plas Brothers (19-0) defeated the North Ridgeville Diamond Belles for the fourth time this season, this time by a score of 15-2 to win the Class B (age 11-12) title.
Pitcher Madison Rishel had four hits and scored four runs for Midview Reaser and center fielder Olivia DiFranco hit an inside-the-park home run in the sixth inning.
“It feels really good to be state champions because the whole team has put in a lot of work and we all came together as a team,” Rishel said. “It’s great to have an undefeated season because that shows us we’ve all played to our potential.”
DiFranco’s home run came as part of a five-run fifth inning.
“(A state championship) is something we were hoping for at the start of the season,” DiFranco said. “We knew we had to play to our best potential and all of the work we’ve done has really paid off.”
Plas Brothers coach Todd Tomasheski said his team started in the offseason by working on fundamentals and went from there.
“Everything we’ve asked of these girls all season they’ve done it,” Tomasheski said. “They put the bat on the ball, they play good defense, pretty much all the way around we were a solid fundamental team. They’ve got this game figured out.
“I’ve seen most of these girls since T-ball when they were just learning to play the game. They have built off of every season to get better and get to this point.”
The Diamond Belles finished the year 15-4.
North Ridgeville Synergy came out of the consolation bracket on fire in Class C (age 13-14), defeating Buckeye MTD 15-1 to force a winner-take-all championship game. In that game, Buckeye scored three runs in the fifth inning to break a tie game and go on for an 8-6 win and the state title.
Contact Todd Shapiro at 440-329-7135 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Class A (age 9-10)
Championship game: Midview Reaser Construction 12, Buckeye Hartshorn 6
Third-place game: North Ridgeville Sapphires 16, North Ridgeville Diamond Belles 13
Class B (age 11-12)
Championship game: Midview Plas Brothers 15, North Ridgeville Diamond Belles 2
Third-place game: Midview Lakeside Builders 13, Buckeye Lichty 3
Class C (age 13-14)
Championship games: Game 1 North Ridgeville Synergy 15, Buckeye MTD 1
Game 2 Buckeye MTD 8, North Ridgeville Synergy 6
Class D (age 15-18)
Championship game: Firelands/South Amherst 7, Lorain 5