AKRON — One tough inning left Mechanicsburg High School’s softball team without a Division IV state championship Sunday morning.
Antwerp scored five times in the bottom of the fifth in a matchup of first-time state qualifiers at Firestone Stadium, and junior right-hander Carlie Hanes tossed a three-hitter with 15 strikeouts as the Archers took the title 5-0.
“It just wasn’t our day,” said Indians coach Abbey DeLong, whose seniorless squad finished 21-4. “It doesn’t define who we are. They’re disappointed today. I think when they look back on it, we did some great things. I’ve always known they can do it. I believe in them more than anything.
“It’s good. I’m proud of them. They’re great kids. They’ll bounce back.”
Mechanicsburg was ranked third in the final state coaches poll. Antwerp (22-2) was unranked, despite allowing only nine runs during the regular season.
“We just come out and play,” Archers coach Krista Ordway said. “People are going to say who’s good and who’s not, but we know who’s good and who’s not.”
Francys King pitched four-plus innings for the Indians and combined with Daytayviah Rodgers on a six-hitter. Rodgers came on after Antwerp opened the fifth with a single by Lauren Schuller and a sacrifice bunt by Shaelin McCrea that turned into an error.
Karsyn Brumett followed with an RBI single for the only run the Archers would need. Hanes added a two-run single, Samantha Rigsby had a run-scoring single and Asti Coppes plated a run with a ground out.
“I was noticing the pitcher was struggling in the fourth inning, so I was like, ‘Oh man, that next inning is going to be ours,’ ” Ordway said. “I knew something big was going to happen if we could just get a couple hits together. Once somebody starts something, we usually fall in line with that. We came out to bat and I said, ‘Open it up, let’s go,’ and they did it. It was history from there.”
Mechanicsburg managed just three singles — by Megan Alspaugh, Audrey Ayars and King — against Hanes, who tied a single-game Division IV state record with her strikeout total.
“She was spinning it pretty good,” said Ayars, a sophomore shortstop. “There was a last-second rise, and we were just getting under it. It’s definitely a challenge, pretty frustrating.”
“I think we were out front. We were guessing a little bit,” DeLong said. “We were no, no, yes-ing instead of yes, yes, no-ing. I think that’s where our solid contact went, or lack of contact. I also think we were pressing a little bit today. I know they’ve been in big games before, but I’m not sure anything’s as big as the state championship.”
Brumett, Antwerp’s junior catcher, said Hanes’ curveball “was really on today, and that kind of threw them off. The ump was calling the outside corner, so we just kept throwing it there and they kept missing.”
The Archers caught a break in the third inning, but it was a painful one for Hanes. Alspaugh lined a shot off her lower leg with two outs and Ayars on second base, and although Alspaugh got an infield single out of it, Hanes’ leg certainly prevented a run from scoring. She struck out Hanna DeLong to end the inning.
“My arm feels fine. My leg, not so much,” Hanes said after the game, noting that the pain was an 8 or a 9 on a scale of 1-10. “It didn’t really hurt as much at first because my adrenaline was going. But now since I’m not playing and my adrenaline’s a little bit on a lower level, my whole leg just hurts.
“It’s OK, though. I sucked it because I knew I had to. I didn’t really want to take a chance of not getting to pitch in state and not getting here next year. I wanted to take the opportunity to do the best I could and just really be there for the team.”
The state championship game had been scheduled for Saturday night, but got moved to Sunday morning because of inclement weather. Alspaugh said the shifting schedule had nothing to do with Mechanicsburg’s performance.
“We just didn’t get it done today,” said Alspaugh, a sophomore center fielder. “We’ve got to win the day, and it just happened to be we didn’t win today.”
Hanes was the game’s only player with two hits. She’s one of the oldest players on an Antwerp team that has just one senior.
The Archers’ roster includes nine freshmen, and Mechanicsburg is a sophomore-dominated squad that only has two juniors. So it’s not a great leap to think that these teams could see each other at state again in the near future.
“We’re not going to stray fom the plan,” Abbey DeLong said. “We play within ourselves, we win the day.”
WP — Carlie Hanes; LP — Francys King. Records: M 21-4, A 22-2
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