Champion to state, 5-4, on Brink's hit
The Golden Flashes rallied from a 4-0 deficit to win in eight innings on Alyshia Brink's two-out single.
By BRIAN RICHESSON
VINDICATOR SPORTS STAFF
MASSILLON -- Seconds after Alyshia Brink's hit that she'll remember forever, the on-field celebration began.
When the dust settled and the purple and gold uniforms came into focus, the Division III regional champions were revealed.
The Champion High softball team is headed back to the state tournament for the first time since its 1994 championship.
The Golden Flashes (22-5) will play Woodsfield Monroe Central in a state semifinal Thursday at Brookside Park in Ashland.
"It's so exciting and it's so crazy," Champion sophomore pitcher Kasey Karr said. "I can't wait until [next week]."
It took a roller-coaster ride of a regional final in which the Golden Flashes defeated Cuyahoga Valley Christian Academy 5-4 in eight innings Saturday at Genshaft Park.
Champion's fate wasn't sealed until Brink, a junior, ripped a two-out single to center field that scored courtesy runner Brittany Skeels with the winning run.
"I saw Mrs. Weaver, and she was telling me to go, so I just ran as fast as I can," said Skeels, referring to Champion coach Cheryl Weaver. "I was so excited when I saw Alyshia hit that ball, I just wanted to run and go home."
Brink's hit capped an improbable comeback that rallied Champion from a 4-0 sixth-inning deficit.
"I just started running. I didn't even know where it went until after they told me," Brink said of her hit.
Weaver added, "Those are the kind of shots that she normally hits -- those lined shots that get through there. She hits the ball hard -- she's a strong young lady -- and she did it when we needed it."
Triggering the Golden Flashes' charge was sophomore Jaclyn Carpenter, who already had singled and doubled when she came to bat in the seventh inning and her team down 4-3.
"One big hit," Weaver said, "can change a game."
Carpenter lifted a high, deep fly that sailed over the left fielder's head and went for a triple.
"I could tell when it hit the bat that it was going over the left fielder's head," Carpenter said. "I just kept running."
As Carpenter reached third, CVCA (18-11) lost control of the ball, and it rolled out of play by the Royals' dugout. In a brief moment of chaos, Weaver ordered Carpenter home to tie the score 4-4, and the umpires upheld the result.
"[The umpires] kept telling us about that dead-ball area," Weaver said. "It was so strange because they kept stressing it. It made you wonder whether this was going to come into effect, and it did."
Two underclassmen pitchers -- Karr and CVCA freshman Katie Keslar -- provided a scoreless duel through five innings.
But the Royals struck for four runs in the sixth against Champion, which hurt itself by committing two of its three errors in the inning.
"That was a tough one," Weaver said of the inning. "[CVCA] has very aggressive base-runners. They're quick, and they're always looking to take another [base]."
Still, the Golden Flashes believed.
"With that group of girls," Weaver said, "anything can happen."
Carpenter started Champion's rally in the sixth by doubling, and she later scored on a wild pitch. Sophomore Emily Hayes and senior Lauren Seafert added RBIs to get the Golden Flashes within 4-3.
Then, they finished it.
"A coach always dreams, no matter what," Weaver said of the state berth. "There's always that chance."