Northwestern shortstop Jamie Rutherford throws to first base during a Division III state semifinal game against Warren Champion on Friday at Firestone Stadium in Akron. Contriubted Photo by Bryant Billing

Northwestern softball falls in Division III state semifinals

But against Champion pitcher Mckenzie Zigmont, Northwestern struggled to hit the ball anywhere other than to an infielder’s glove.

The Warriors had two hits in five innings in a 10-0 loss to the Golden Flashes and finished 27-3. Champion advances to face defending D-III champ Wheelersburg in the state final Saturday afternoon.

Though Northwestern struck out only three times, the Warriors hit 10 infield groundouts and had an infield popup.

“We warmed up well today, hitting the ball and making better contact at our practice field, but we just didn’t carry it over to the game,” Northwestern coach Missy Johnson said.

Northwestern players Maddie Current, Rachel Martin, Abby Zerkle and Ashlee Barger agreed after the game that, though Zigmont was good, she wasn’t better than several other strong pitchers the team faced in the regular season.

“We’ve seen a lot of good pitchers,” Johnson said. “I think, honestly, after they scored their first run, our minds kind of were not in the game.”

Champion didn’t have hitting problems. The Flashes had 11 hits in four innings at the plate, including a solo home run by Allison Smith in the second that landed several feet outside the left field fence.

After Northwestern fell behind 7-0 in the third, Johnson replaced starter Jenna Robbins with Miranda Gillman, but the Flashes kept hitting. Champion scored one more run in the third and two in the fourth to force a run rule.

Robbins, who was first-team all-state in 2016 and had an 0.94 ERA this season, was charged with eight of Champion’s runs.

“She’s definitely a good pitcher, her ball was spinning like crazy,” Champion’s Allison Smith said of Robbins. “But we’ve seen all of it. We’re just really experienced when it comes to pitchers.”

Current, Martin and Zerkle are seniors, and though they were disappointed, they said they were proud of the team’s accomplishments. Northwestern won the Central Buckeye Conference Mad River Division each of the last four seasons, making the regionals each year.

The Warriors had lost in regional games the previous three seasons, and Current said the team was glad to finally reach state.

“Even though we didn’t have the outcome we wanted, we still had a great time playing,” Current said. “We had a great time being up here and being together.”

Northwestern’s best chance to score was in the second inning. Robbins hit a hard single to center field, and courtesy runner Hannah Weymouth advanced to second on a steal and third on a bunt. Weymouth tried to steal home with Ashlee Barger at the plate, but was tagged out as she slid. Weymouth hit a two-out double to left in the fifth and reached third before the final out.

It was Northwestern’s eighth trip to the state tournament. The program has finished as runner-up three times but hasn’t won a title.

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