AKRON — STATE CHAMPIONS.
It is a phrase that all high school athletes hope to say at the end of a long season and the Antwerp Lady Archer softball team can say just that with pride after a 5-0 win over Mechanicsburg at Firestone Stadium Sunday morning in Akron.
A day after waiting to see if they would play Saturday night — due to storms that rolled through the Akron area — the youthful Archers left no doubt Sunday morning once on the diamond against a young Indians’ squad that features no seniors.
The Blue-and-White did so behind another stellar performance in the circle from junior pitcher Carlie Hanes, who tied a state record with 15 strikeouts in the Division IV state championship contest, which finished off a stellar postseason for the Antwerp fireballer.
Hanes ended the 7-game tournament run for the Archers with 87 strikeouts while allowing only four runs on 28 hits. Edgerton (district semifinal) and New Riegel (regional semifinal) were the only teams to plate runs off Hanes, with both tallying two runs each.
Over the course of Sunday’s championship tilt, Hanes also surpassed 300 strikeouts for the season.
The Archers outscored tourney foes Holgate (10-0), Edgerton (10-2), Ayersville (1-0), New Riegel (3-2), Crestview (3-0), Peebles (1-0) and Mechanicsburg (5-0) by a combined 33-4 margin.
Antwerp is just the second softball program from the Defiance six-county area to win a state championship, joining Archbold, which won state titles in 1982, ‘84 and ‘86 under legendary coach Barb Short.
Hanes not only led the way on the rubber but also used a leg and her bat to carry the Archers to the win.
With the game scoreless in the top of the third and the Indians’ Audrey Ayars on second base, sophomore Megan Alspaugh hit a rocket up the middle that went off the left calf of Hanes and rolled towards the first base line.
Although Alspaugh reached safely and Ayars advanced to third, the hockey-goalie style block kept the Indians off of the scoreboard as Hanes bounced back to strike out cleanup hitter Hannah DeLong for the third out of the inning.
“It was one of those plays where it hurt but I knew I had to get the ball,” stated the Archer junior pitcher, who took a few minutes and a couple of warmups before game action resumed. “But, I knew I had to be there for my team and there was no way I was coming out of the game. It is the state championship game and I was not coming off of the field.”
“I went out to check on her but I knew what the reaction was that I was going to get,” added Antwerp head coach Krista Ordway.
The Archer offense put together its first threat in the fourth but was kept off of the scoreboard.
With one out, Astianna Coppes walked and advanced to second on a Samantha Rigsby groundout.
After Alyssa Fuller walked to put runners at first and second, Alyvia DeVore hit a ground ball to Ayars who tagged out Fuller going to second for the third out.
However, the momentum started to turn in the top of the fifth.
Francys King started the frame for the Indians with a walk before Grace Forrest entered as a courtesy runner.
On the first pitch to nine-hitter Morgan Heizer, Forrest took off for second but was gunned down by Antwerp catcher Karsyn Brumett’s throw to Coppes for the first out. A Hanes strikeout of Heizer and a popup by Ayars to Hanes ended the frame as the Archers came off the field with a little more energy after the defensive stand and carried that over to the plate.
“That was a big play,” noted Ordway. “We felt like we had some good at-bats in the fourth inning and that we were ready to put some things together there in the fifth. We told the girls it was our time to go out and get it done and they did that.”
Lauren Schuller started the bottom of the fifth with a single to left field before Shaelin McCrea reached on a bunt attempt that was misplayed by Mechanicsburg.
Brumett then put Antwerp on the scoreboard with a run-scoring single to center field that plated Schuller for a 1-0 advantage.
After McCrea and Brumett moved to second and third on an errant throw by Mechanicsburg, freshman Kennedy Trabel courtesy ran for Brumett before an intentional walk to Tiera Gomez loaded the bases.
Hanes then provided the dagger, ripping a two-run single to right field that scored both McCrea and Trabel and widened the Antwerp advantage to 3-0.
Coppes drove in Gomez with a groundout to Ayars to push the margin to 4-0 before a run-scoring single by Rigsby plated Ali Reinhart, who had ran for Hanes, to extend the blue and white lead to 5-0.
When the inning was done, the Archers scored five runs on four hits, taking advantage of three Indians’ errors.
“We don’t normally have innings that get away from us like that,” stated Mechanicsburg head coach Abbey DeLong of her squad. “But, these girls will bounce back. This is a resilient group and they will learn from it and we will stick together. I am so proud of what they have accomplished this year.”
The Indians did threaten again to find the scoring column in the sixth, taking advantage of a pair of Antwerp errors to put runners on first and second with one out.
However, Hanes got Daytayviah Rodgers to pop up to second baseman Alyvia Devore before striking out Macy Reed to end the sixth.
Following a leadoff single by King in the seventh, Hanes recorded strikeouts of Heizer and Taylor Hurst before Ayars popped up to Coppes to end the contest and start the Paulding County squad’s celebration.
“These girls have worked so hard,” Ordway continued. “I am so proud of them and of the whole community. The support we have gotten all season long has been tremendous and you saw that again here today.”
Hanes picked up her 22nd win of the season, improving to 22-2 on the year, with the complete-game victory that saw her allow three hits and two walks. The junior hurler finished the season with a trio of consecutive shutouts in wins over Crestview, Peebles and Mechanicsburg.
She also led the Antwerp offense with two singles and two runs batted in while Brumett and Samantha Rigsby each added a single and drove in one run.
Lauren Schuller and Alyssa Fuller chipped in singles for Antwerp. Kennedy Trabel, Tiera Gomez, Ali Reinhart, Schuller and McCrea all scored a run. Astianna Coppes also had a run batted in.
Francys King took the loss for Mechanicsburg, tossing four innings while giving up three hits, two runs (one earned) and two walks with a pair of strikeouts. Rodgers tossed the final two frames, allowing three hits, three earned runs and a walk while fanning three.
Audrey Ayars, Megan Alspaugh and Francys King all had singles for the Lady Indians.
Mechanicsburg 000 000 0 — 0 3 3
Antwerp 000 050 x — 5 6 2
Records: Antwerp 22-2, Mechanicsburg 21-4.
Winning pitcher: Carlie Hanes (7 innings, 0 runs, 3 hits, 15 strikeouts, 2 walks).
Losing pitcher: Francys King (4 innings, 2 runs, 3 hits, 2 strikeouts, 2 walks). Other: Daytayviah Rodgers.
Leading hitters: (Antwerp) — Carlie Hanes 2 singles.