The Felicity High School softball team’s dream season came to an end on Thursday, May 31 as they gave up six unanswered runs in the final three innings to fall 6-4 to the eventual Division III state champions, the aptly named Warren Champion High School.
“We had an awesome year,” Felicity coach Rob Wear said. “We made a great run. I think we had the support of the people in our league, the community, the school and the parents. It was just awesome, a great run. No regrets at all.”
After defeating Southern Buckeye Conference rival Clermont Northeastern on May 26 to advance to the state semifinals in Dayton at Wright State University, the Lady Cardinals’ traveled to Akron to play at Firestone Stadium, home to the Akron Racers of the National Pro Fastpitch softball league.
Despite weather delays that pushed the game time back by more than an hour and a half, the Lady Cardinals came out of the gate quickly, taking a 4-0 lead into the fifth inning.
Felicity got two runs in the second inning by virtue of a Hillary White single and Brittany Sowers reaching on an error. Both runners advanced to second and third, respectively, on a wild pitch. Jordan White’s sacrifice fly scored her sister and Makayla Jacobs’ RBI two batters later scored Sowers.
The next inning, the Lady Cardinals capitalized on Champion’s mistakes, scoring two more runs as the Golden Flashes committed three errors in the frame.
Leading 4-0 heading into the fifth inning, Felicity fans had to feel pretty good about their chances with Montana Wear in the circle and knowing that no team had scored more than three runs on the Lady Cardinals all season.
However, it wasn’t meant to be.
Champion got their first two runs playing small ball. Following a lead-off walk, the Golden Flashes moved Brooke Culler around the bases with sacrifices until Haley McAllister plated her. McAllister would score on a Haley Gardiner triple to cut the Felicity lead in half.
Wear did her best to control the damage, getting out of the inning still holding the 4-2 lead, but Montana was not getting the calls on the outside part of the plate that she was accustomed to getting.
“Montana pitched well. That was probably the best hitting team we’ve faced in a long, long time,” Rob Wear said. “We were struggling with the outside of the plate. Montana, with her dropping curve, outside curveball and rise ball, that’s outside of the plate material and she wasn’t getting the calls. It was a different strike zone up there.”
Adding insult to injury, the Lady Cardinals’ usually stellar defense started to falter in the sixth and seventh innings.
“For us, one error turned into two and two turned into four. We couldn’t get a handle on it,” Coach Wear said. “No matter how much you coach them… it all changes with the game presence. I think we got a little nervous and we made some mistakes.
“They’re a great team. Give credit where credit’s due. There was no quit in (Champion). Down 4-0, most teams would fold up, but they didn’t quit.”
Champion added one more run in the sixth and another in the seventh. Felicity, who has come from behind before this season, most notably against Amelia on April 12, still felt like they had a chance. Unfortunately, they couldn’t get anything going with the bats and saw their season end on a chilly night in Akron.
Despite the loss, the Lady Cardinals made the longest tournament run in school history and set a school record with their 24-1 mark on the season.
Coach Wear, for one, was grateful for the time he spent with the team.
“I look after each of them just like they’re my own child,” Wear said. “It’s not just the seniors, but the new girls that come on board. I had an opportunity to be with this group of girls for so long. I’m just glad that they were part of my life and I’m glad that the parents, the school and the community allowed me to be part of theirs.”