MASSILLON—Warren Champion entered Saturday’s Division III regional final against Independence with a 27-0 record and riding a 34-game winning streak.
The Blue Devils quickly found out why as the Golden Flashes used eight hits to scored nine runs in the top of the first inning on the way to a 13-3 five-inning win.
“It was tough to lose but what a battle we gave them,” said Independence coach Garry Moore. “Down nine, I don’t care how positive you try to be, but we got three on the board and they don’t give up three very often. They’re a heck of a team but we’re a good team too, we just had to play a little cleaner than we played.”
Ohio State-bound Allison Smith led off with a single and scored on Megan Turner’s one-out single. Cassidy Shaffer’s two-out single made it 2-0 and that’s where it should have ended but an error extended the inning and the Flashes took advantage.
They went on to score seven unearned runs, highlighted by Smith’s two-run bomb to left field.
Smith also dominated in the circle as she limited the Blue Devils to two earned runs on just five hits. The three runs were the second most Champion has allowed in 29 games. The Golden Flashes, who have won four state titles since 2011, have recorded 21 shutouts this season.
“We were prepared for this game,” Moore said. “You take away that first inning and you’ve got a game and that’s what we wanted. Even though we lost, we kept fighting.”
Kim Rega, who finished 3-for-3, singled to start Independence’s third inning rally.
Sarah Piteo and Maggie George then hit back-to-back doubles to cut Champion’s lead to 13-2. George scored from second on a failed pickoff attempt.
“That inning was something,” Moore said. “The way Maggie George came around from second base and scored, that’s what we’re all about.”
Rega started in the circle for the Blue Devils and allowed just three earned runs on 10 hits. With the loss, she dropped to 15-1 on the season with a 1.948 earned run average. Piteo relieves Rega in the top of the third and struck out three of the 12 batters she faced.
Independence closed out the season with a 23-4 record and the second district championship in school history.
The loss also ended the careers of five seniors including Rega, George, Sophia Trombetta, Neenah Costanzo and Ashley Caputo.
“Those girls are the heart and soul,” said Independence coach Mallory Kobak. “We’ve had them since they were eight years old. It’s hard to see them leave. It’s not the end of our relationship; it’s just the end of their relationship playing high school ball. We’ve got huge shoes to fill. They’re going to be missed.”