Tom Williams: Champion-ship Saturday twice as nice
Every Ohio high school sports program has dreams of playing for a state title. Few achieve that goal — it’s just not that easy.
That’s what makes today’s schedule for Champion High School so impressive. At 10 a.m. in Columbus’ Huntington Park, the Champion baseball team will play for its first state crown. In the Division III final, the Golden Flashes (26-3) will play undefeated Berlin Hiland (31-0).
Six hours later at Akron’s Firestone Stadium, the Champion softball team (31-2) will play defending champion Wheelersburg (25-2) for the Division III state crown. If Champion wins, it will be the program’s seventh state crown.
Two title games in one day — absolutely fabulous.
Junior Megan Turner, the softball team’s three-year starting shortstop, will see both games. Following Friday’s 10-0 victory over Springfield Northwestern, Megan rode to Columbus with her parents. Her brother Michael is the baseball team’s catcher.
As much as the other softball players would love to be with her, common sense prevailed.
“The rest of us, we need to be rested up,” Champion softball coach Cheryl Weaver said. “This was a hot game, they need to sleep in their own beds and be ready.”
Weaver said the decision to allow Megan to go to Michael’s game was not difficult. Family comes first.
“It’s her brother so she goes,” Weaver said. “I know her mom and dad will keep her rested and hydrated and ready to go.”
Megan knows she’s “pretty lucky. Coach Weaver is pretty lenient with me when it comes to my brother. It’s his senior season, tomorrow is his last time ever playing as a high schooler.
“It’s really nice of her to allow me to go down [to Columbus] to support him,” she said.
With Akron about 120 miles from Columbus, it’s going to take Megan and her parents [Christy and Brian] about two hours to get from downtown Columbus to Akron’s South Side. Weaver is not worried her shortstop won’t be present for warm-ups.
“It’s a two-hour drive, but you know what?” Weaver said. “That’s her brother, it’s his senior year and hey, they’re looking to win the state championship — how often is that ever going to happen?”
“It’s not that she’s driving — that makes a difference.”
Weaver’s team is playing for its fourth title since 2011. Wheelersburg is going for its second straight title. Both easily won in their semifinal. The Pirates defeated Cardington Lincoln 10-1 as pitcher Faith Howard scattered five hits. Champion needed just five innings to bounce Springfield Northwestern, 10-0.
So what type of game will the championship round bring, pitchers duel or slugfest?
“I’m not really sure,” Weaver said. “They hit the ball [well] so we’ll see.”
McKenzie Zigmont, Champion’s senior ace, acknowledged the Pirates’ potential after they had 16 hits.
“A lot of the hits I [saw] were just up the middle,” Zigmont said. “I don’t know if the pitcher was leaving them there or what was going on [but] they didn’t really pull or take anything to right field, from what I saw.”
Her catcher, senior Molly Williams, said, “They hit the ball pretty well. I definitely think it’s going to be the best versus the best.”
Tom Williams is a sportswriter at The Vindicator. Write him at email@example.com and follow him on Twitter, @Williams_Vindy.