AKRON - The Champion Golden Flashes finally evened the score, even if it took one day short of six years.
With senior pitcher Lindsay Swipas finishing her career in superlative style, the Flashes won their second straight Division III state softball championship with a 2-0 win over the Bloom-Carroll Bulldogs Saturday at Firestone Park. It didn't escape the notice of Flashes coach Cheryl Weaver that the score was identical to the score when the Bulldogs defeated the Flashes in the 2006 state title game.
The margin of victory didn't matter much as players, coaches and a large contingent of fans celebrated Champion's fifth state title. With their first back-to-back championships secured, the Flashes cemented their reputation as one of the premier programs in Ohio.
Tribune Chronicle / R. Michael Semple
Champion pitcher Lindsay Swipas, center, rushes to her catcher, Sierra Blackson. They are joined by Darian Rogers just seconds after the last out was recorded in the Division III state championship on Saturday at Firestone Stadium in Akron. Champion beat Bloom-Carroll 2-0 to claim their second-consecutive state championship.
"I couldn't think of a word to describe it," Weaver said. "I am so happy for the senior class, because if any group of girls deserves it, it is this group."
Swipas has had many memorable performances in four seasons with the varsity, but few will top her showing against the Bulldogs, who had outscored the opposition by a combined score of 23-0 in tournament play. Making great use of an off-speed pitch and exhibiting control that was better than what showed up on the statistical sheet, Swipas didn't allow a hit until the bottom of the seventh inning. She finished with a one-hitter, striking out 10 and walking five.
Two of the walks were to Bulldogs pitcher and leading hitter Taran Alvelo and were basically intentional. Swipas struck out Alvelo in the sixth inning when she faced the heart of the batting order.
"After the first inning, everything was good after that," Swipas said. "I felt strong, and by the seventh I felt like I had gotten stronger."
Swipas showed a gritty determination that belies her girl-next-door look. That was never more evident than in the seventh when Paige Reis singled leading off. The ball got by left fielder Lexi Nasonti, allowing Reis to reach third.
Swipas didn't get the no-hitter, but she made sure the Bulldogs didn't score. She struck out Kipley Detwiler. Katie Silvia popped out to third baseman Darian Rogers, and Ashlee Ireland fouled out to catcher Sierra Blackson.
Swipas looked as strong at the end as she did when she opened the game by walking lead-off hitter Haley Starr.
"That's typically how Lindsay works," Weaver said. "If you look back, she struggles sometimes in the first and second innings. It's weird. It's always asking her, 'Are you warmed up enough?' It's just the way Lindsay is, and come to the end of the game she's so strong."
Alvelo was as fast as advertised, which might have been her problem. The Flashes thrive on fastball pitchers. They had 11 hits and scored four runs against Montana Wear of Felicity-Franklin in the semifinals, and they had six hits off the talented Alvelo.
"We've been preparing for this all season," said first baseman Alison Sorber, who singled in the first run in a two-run second inning. "We had the pitching machine going fast. We were ready for the speed and the movement."
Haley McAllister and Mackenzie Kiser each had two hits. Kiser drove in one of the runs.
"We didn't so much focus on everything she threw, but we knew she was fast and had some different pitches," McAllister said. "Just focus on picking our best pitch. She threw a lot (of pitches) that people would chase, but we stay focused and hit our pitch."
Alvelo wasn't surprised by the way the Flashes hit the ball.
"I came into the game knowing they are a good hitting team, but they capitalized on all my mistakes." Alvelo said. "The balls they hit were the balls I left too fat. That's all it was."
Although the Flashes were retired in order in the first inning, no one struck. It was a sign that they weren't being overmatched by Alvelo.
Rogers walked with one out in the second. Emille Hohvart reached safely when Silvia's foot was off the bag at first base on a ground ball. Both runners then advanced a base on a wild pitch.
Sorber singled sharply to score Rogers. Hohvart was held a third by Weaver, but she scored when Kiser grounded out.
"It's nice to go out with a good game," Sorber said. "This is the last game of my career. It's nice to do well and prove to people."
The Flashes had a hit in every inning except the first but weren't able to put the game away until the end because of two doubleplays. Sorber lined out to center fielder Brittany Sweeney, who doubled up Hohvart at first base in the fourth. Kiser led off the fifth with a single but Swipas grounded into a doubleplay.
No one was complaining about missed opportunities afterwards.
"It was definitely the perfect way (to go out), especially for your senior year," Sorber said.