Champion rolls again, this time into D-III state final
By Tom Williams
In 18 seasons as Champion High School’s varsity softball coach, Cheryl Weaver has taken six teams to state. The first five were built around strong pitchers (Kasey Karr, Lindsay Swipas, Haylee Gardiner) and excellent defense.
This year’s team is an offensive juggernaut.
Asked if this team was her best hitting team, Weaver said, “definitely, hands down. They all contribute, one through nine, any time.”
The Golden Flashes’ bats were sizzling Friday against Springfield Northwestern ace Jenna Robbins, who took an 0.80 earned-run average into their Division III state semifinal. Champion produced 11 hits, five for extra bases.
The Flashes (31-2) chased Robbins in the fourth inning of a 10-0, five-inning victory.
This afternoon, the Golden Flashes will be playing for the school’s seventh state title. The opponent will be defending state champion Wheelersburg (25-2).
“If you look at the games we’ve played, if you see that the top [of the batting lineup] didn’t do it, the bottom did,” Weaver said. “There’s always somebody [generating] hits.”
No one was hotter than freshman leadoff hitter Allison Smith, who reached base four times. Her three hits included her 18th homer and an RBI double. She scored three times and drove in three runs.
Sometimes her bat is quicker than her eyes. In the third inning with two on base, Smith smashed a line drive off the right foot of third baseman Miranda Gillman. The ball wickedly ricocheted into the left-field picnic area for a RBI double that extended Champion’s lead to 4-0. Senior Molly Williams followed with a two-run double.
“I heard it, I wasn’t watching,” Smith said of her hard hit. “Dad [first-base coach Steve Smith] said go to second, I didn’t know where the ball was.
“I didn’t see it happen but I heard it hit her ankle,” Smith said.
Smith also didn’t see her solo homer land deep over the left-field fence in the second inning, but she said it felt “pretty good” when her bat connected.
In six tournament games, the Flashes have outscored their opponents 63-1.
Junior Megan Turner scored twice while senior McKenzie Zigmont had an RBI double. Sophomore Abbi White’s three hits included a double and drove in a run, and freshman Hannah Gresch’s first-inning single scored Turner for a 2-0 lead.
“Her ball was spinning like crazy,” White said of Robbins. “She’s a good pitcher.”
Defensively, Zigmont tossed her fifth consecutive shutout of the tournament. She allowed two hits, struck out three and walked four.
Zigmont was a right fielder when Champion won the state title in 2015. She said nerves were a factor when she took the mound.
“I just drew a lot of deep breaths to calm myself down and relax,” Zigmont said.
The Warriors (27-3) had several chances to score. In the second inning, they had runners at third and second with two outs. Behind the plate, Williams saw Hannah Weymouth stray a bit too far from third base so she fired the ball to White to spark a rundown. Williams caught the return throw and tagged out Weymouth.
Zigmont retired the first two Warriors in the fifth inning. Ashlee Barger’s double and two walks loaded the bases before Bry White grounded out to shortstop Turner to end the game.
“It’s unbelievable, it’s like a dream come true,” Weaver said of another state champions game. “We’ve been blessed with some great ballplayers. I’m very proud of them — they are the best.”