Back-to-back again: Flashes maintain softball dominance
By DAN HINER
It took a while, but after scoring two runs in the first four innings, the Champion softball team finally put a crooked number on the board.
The Golden Flashes did that a lot during a memorable and perfect season that ended with a 9-4 win over Cardington-Lincoln in the Division III state final Saturday night at Firestone Stadium.
Emma Gumont’s fifth-inning grand slam was the biggest part of a five-run uprising that broke open a tight game and helped the Golden Flashes win back-to-back state titles for the second time in the program’s history.
“The last couple games I haven’t been hitting my best, so I knew I just had to drive one and it just happened,” Gumont said.
Gumont gave the Golden Flashes (31-0) their first run when she scored on an error in the third inning. Gumont began the third with a double — Champion’s first hit of the game. Allison Smith grounded out to second and Pirates baseman Paige Clinger threw the ball into the Champion dugout as she was trying to get Gumont out at third.
Golden Flashes pitcher Allison Smith got off to a rough start. She went 2-1 to the first five batters she faced and walked in a run in the top of the first.
Smith and catcher Gabby Hollenbaugh had a couple meetings on the mound and Smith settled into a grove.
“Gabby’s awesome. She’s been great all year,” Smith said. “She doesn’t let me get worked up, she keeps me laughing, keeps the energy light and is just really good to have behind the plate.”
Smith struck out five in the complete game. She allowed four runs, three earned, on four hits and four walks.
Gumont finished 2 for 4 with four RBIs and two runs scored.
Megan Turner paced Champion offensively. The senior singled, walked three times and scored once.
“Megan is a key part but we have a lot of girls who can do a lot, too,” Smith said. “It showed today, it was a team win.”
Smith said part of the Golden Flashes’ early struggles were due to miscommunication. The team got together on the mound to discuss the situation in the first inning.
“Last game we had to switch our pitching signs,” Smith said. “We had to switch them back so we knew we were on the same page.
“I was throwing completely different things than what [Champion head coach Cheryl Weaver] was expecting.”
Cardington-Lincoln pitcher Casey Bertke allowed nine runs, seven earned, in a complete game. She gave up nine hits and three walks while striking out one.
Bertke hit a two-out home run to left field in the top of the sixth. Chelsey Miller, Baylee Adams and Clinger also drove in a run each for the Pirates (26-4).
The momentum changed in the third inning when Champion third baseman Abby White doubled up Kierson George at first base.
Adams tried laying down a bunt for the Pirates, but White charged toward home plate, caught the ball and made the throw to first.
“She’s the girl that makes this kind of place for us,” Weaver said. “Nothing gets by Abby. Sometimes you need plays like that, especially when the game’s not quite going the way you thought.”
Champion also won back-to-back titles in 2011 and ‘12. This is their eighth overall title, third in the last five years and fifth in the last eight.
“Who would ever believe that you can come back here, and back-to-back and in four years be here three times?” Weaver said. ““[In] 2011 and 2012 we go back-to-back and we were also there in ‘06 and ‘04. I just find it unbelievable that I can be a part of all this.”