For Mechanicsburg softball, it’s ‘time to win it all’

Mechanicsburg celebrates after a victory against Minster in a Division IV regional final on Saturday, May 25, 2019, at Greenville. David Jablonski/Staff

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Mechanicsburg celebrates after a victory against Minster in a Division IV regional final on Saturday, May 25, 2019, at Greenville. David Jablonski/Staff

Indians play in state final four for first time Friday

Abbey DeLong won the Springfield News-Sun All-Area Coach of the Year award in 2006, her first season as Mechanicsburg head coach. The 1997 Mechanicsburg graduate had instant success — the team finished 19-7 — with a program that struggled the previous three seasons.

» PHOTOS: Mechanicsburg vs. Minster

“It’s always nice to come back home and take over a program,” said DeLong then. “We wanted to make believers out of the ladies, that they can play with people.”

All these years later, everyone’s believing in the Indians. DeLong, a mother of four, took a break from coaching after the 2010 season when her son was born but has been back with the program the last five seasons. She has turned Mechanicsburg into the latest Champaign County power.

The Indians (20-3) are ranked fourth in the state in Division IV and won a regional championship with an 8-4 victory Saturday against Minster.

“We’re not finished yet,” said freshman Daytayviah Rodgers, who hit a grand slam in the first inning against Minster. “It’s time to win it all.”

Mechanicsburg will play in the state semifinals at 5:30 p.m. Friday at Akron Firestone Stadium. The opponent will be No. 7 JeromesvilleHillsdale (20-6), which beat No. 8 Monroeville 5-0 on Saturday. Peebles will play Antwerp at 3 p.m. Friday in the first Division IV state semifinal.

» EARLIER COVERAGE: Mechanicsburg, WLS seek state berths

This will be Hillsdale’s 16th state appearance. It has won six state championships, most recently a year ago when it beat Strasburg-Franklin 5-0. This will be the first state appearance for Mechanicsburg and even the first trip to state for DeLong, who has not attended the games as a fan.

“Honestly, we’re going to approach it just like we’ve done every game,” DeLong said. “We’re not going to treat it like it’s anything special. We’re going to work on some things we need to work on this week. It will be a big stage, I’m sure. It will be different. Our goal is to stick to the plan and win the day.”

Mechanicsburg will try to become the second team from Champaign County to win a state championship. Since Triad won it all in 1992. the county has sent nine teams to state without winning a championship. Triad has earned five state berths since 1992. West Liberty-Salem has made three state appearances, and Urbana has reached state once.

“It’s good for this program,” DeLong said. “It’s good for these girls. These girls have been working for this since they were 10 years old. This is what they wanted last year when they were freshmen. They were not satisfied. They expected to be back there. They expected to be in Akron.”

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