RANDOLPH TWP. - You've heard it countless times: the team that makes the fewest errors wins the big game.
Likewise, it's been proven true countless times, as recently as Saturday afternoon in the searing heat and swirling dust of Portage County.
There, in a softball showdown for girls 18 and under, the Lorain Xplosion scored three unearned runs with the help of three Columbia errors. They might have been unearned, but they counted just the same in a 4-2 victory over the Raiders.
For its part, the Lorain girls committed two errors, both in the first inning, and they led to an unearned Columbia run. Without the unearned runs, the teams might still be playing with the score tied at 1.
Instead, the Xplosion went back to Lorain County with the Ohio Girls Softball Organization's Class D state championship. It was the first OGSO state title by an area team since 2008, when Lorain County teams won three of the four age-group titles.
Grafton Nancy's Diner, with a chance to take another championship trophy home, lost its Class A (10-and-under) state final showdown to the Champion Flashes, 8-1.
Champion claimed the title for the second year in a row.
In other games involving area teams, Keystone Moyes Trucking drilled the Badger Braves 12-2 in the Class A consolation game and Matthews waxed Medina 11-0 to win the Class C (14U) crown in a perfect-game, mercy-rule rout. No area Class B (12-and-under) teams survived beyond last weekend's first- and second-round games.
Lorain pitcher Sarah Kaya struck out six and scattered five hits, no more than one by any Columbia player. Kaya wiggled out of a huge jam in the fifth inning.
With the Xplosion leading 4-1, Columbia's Emily Viccarone drilled a leadoff double to center field, moved to third on Allison Bowes' single to left and scored on Heather Walaszewski's first-pitch single to center.
With one out, Sarah Viccarone reached on a bunt single while Bowes and Walaszewski held third and second, respectively. But Kaya breathed easier when the next batter flied out to right field, and she was out of the pickle with a routine popup to short.
"I was just basically trying to stay calm, keeping my focus," Kaya said of facing Columbia's final batter in the seventh. "Coming down to that last out was intense. But this means a lot because it's a first for a lot of us and we can't wait to start next season."
Columbia scored its first run when, with two out in the first, Danielle Riolo hit what appeared to be a routine fly ball. But the Xplosion outfield couldn't handle it and Riolo wound up on second base. Riolo scored when pitcher Kalyn Thompson reached on an infield error.
Lorain tied it at 1 in the third when Kristen Whalen reached on a Columbia error. Then with two outs, Jenee Perry stroked a double to the gap in left-center, sending Whalen home. Until Perry's hit, the Raiders' Thompson had retired eight of the first nine batters she faced.
The Xplosion scored what proved to be the winning runs - both unearned - in the fourth. Nikki Kent, who reached on an error, and Kaya, who was aboard via fielder's choice, scored them. Kent scored when Emily Rousch reached on a Columbia error and Kaya ran in on Whalen's single to center.
Lorain (21-1) added the crusher in the fifth when Perry led off with a single, stole second and third, then crossed the plate on Abby Coakley's RBI grounder to the left side. Columbia's Thompson deserved a better fate. She struck out three and finished with a three-hitter, two of them by the Xplosion's Perry.
"There were a lot of jitters," Xplosion coach Shawn Coakley said of his team's shaky start. "But it's hard to win at the show if you've never been to the show. When we tied the score, you could tell the weight was off our shoulders and we were ready to play ball."
Columbia finished its season 20-2. Both losses were to the Xplosion.
Contact Bob Daniels at 329-7135 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Champion Flashes 8, Grafton Nancy's Diner 1
Mathews 11, Medina 0
Lorain Xplosion 4, Columbia Raiders 2
Keystone Moyes Trucking 12, Badger Braves 2