Golden Bears battle on way to OVAC championship
WHEELING, W.Va. — A few times during their unbeaten start to the season, Oak Glen has had to battle through some adversity.
The top-seeded Golden Bears found themselves in such a situation again on Saturday, battling an equally resilient No. 3 seed Edison team for the OVAC Class 4A title at the J.B. Chambers I-470 Complex.
After watching a three-run lead it had held since the first inning vanish in the top of the sixth inning, Sherrie Garner’s group did not waste any time taking command again, plating three runs — all with two outs — to take a 6-3 lead which it did not surrender to claim the conference title.
“They just believe in each other, they really do,” said Garner, the Oak Glen head coach. “We have had some adversity this season, we’ve had to come back in some games when we’ve been down. They believe, they believe in each other and pick each other up.
“(Edison) was great competition and we battled well. That’s what we need to do so we don’t get settled into one thing. We have to be challenged so we can continue to get stronger.”
Up 3-0 with junior Maddie McKay, a University of Toledo recruit who tossed a perfect game in semifinal round, cruising through the first five innings in the circle, it seemed as through the Golden Bears (12-0) were well on their way to leaving Wheeling with the trophy behind another McKay gem.
The Wildcats (13-7), though, were not about to make it that easy.
After breaking up the no hitter in the fourth inning after McKay had fanned the first nine Wildcat batters, and again getting a runner on in the fifth, Edison finally grouped the hits together in the sixth to get back in it.
After the first two batters got on via a hit by pitch and a bunt single, McKay fanned the next two, only to see a potential third out to end the inning dropped in foul territory to extend the inning. The next batter, Hannah Christoff, singled in Edison’s first run, then Kiley Babel singled in a pair to even the score at 3-3.
“We were facing quality pitcher, so you’re not going to see very many good pitches to hit,” Edison coach Spencer Bendle said. “I thought our approach at the plate the first two times through the order wasn’t very good. We were a little hesitant and guessing a little bit instead of being aggressive. I feel like we wasted five good innings with a poor approach at the plate.”
“Hopefully we’ll learn from that. (Facing a pitcher like McKay) is going to help us no doubt facing quality pitching going forward.”
The tie, however, did not stay long.
McKayla Zoellers led off the bottom half of the sixth with a double, then after a pair of Katie Fluharty punch outs, Sydney Brown drove in the go-ahead run with a two-out single.
After Lizzie Kell singled and McKay was intentionally walked, Sarah Brown put a 2-2 pitch into the outfield to score both and make it a three-run cushion.
“Credit to Oak Glen for that, we battled back and got three runs on them, then they were able to come right back and respond,” Bendle said. “I’m very proud of the girls for battling back. It would have been very easy to be disheartened, but our girls battled back and wanted to compete.”
McKay, who finished the game with 15 strikeouts, no walks and one hit batter to earn the win, put the rough sixth behind her to work a 1-2-3 seventh to slam the door shut on the Wildcats.
“She is determined at everything she does,” Garner said of McKay. “She just stayed true to the course, brought her game back, pitched her pitches and hit her spots (in the seventh). They got on it (in the sixth) and we made some boo-boos, but that’s part of the game.”
In the bottom of the first, the Golden Bears initial lead came on a big swing from Olivia Munoz, who got ahold of the first pitch she saw from Fluharty with two outs and two on, launching a fly ball over the fence in left-center for a three-run shot — the only scoring until the sixth.
“Our lineup is strong and Olivia can hit, that’s her second home run,” Garner said. “She had a grand slam before. They all see the ball well, and she certainly came through.”
Both teams are scheduled to play today with Oak Glen at Weir and Edison hosting Youngstown Mooney.
OVAC Class 4A Championship
At J.B. Chambers I-470 Complex
ED: 0-0-0 0-0-3 0–3-5-4
OG: 3-0-0 0-0-3-x–6-8-0
EDISON (13-7): Fluharty (LP, 6IP, 6R, 6ER, 8H, 12K, 5BB) and Evans. Ankrom S; Brenstuhl S; Christoff S, RBI; Babel S, 2RBIs.
OAK GLEN (12-0): McKay (WP, CG, 3R, 3ER, 5H, 15K, 0BB, 1HBP) and Sa. Brown. Munoz HR, 3RBIs; Sy. Brown S, RBI; Zoellers 2S, D; Sa. Brown 2S, 2RBIs; Kell S.