Bob Daniels and Todd Shapiro
AKRON — If there was a shadow of doubt Saturday morning about who has the best softball team in Ohio, there was certainly none by early afternoon.
Top-ranked and undefeated North Canton Hoover, on its way to a three-peat as Division I state champion, resolved the issue with a remarkably easy 7-0 victory over No. 3 Elyria in Firestone Stadium.
The Vikings scored all seven runs with two outs.
Hoover (34-0) posted its seventh state title dating to 1998. It is the fifth for the Vikings in eight years. Three of the state final wins have been shutouts of Elyria. The Pioneers’ season ended at 27-6.
Elyria coach Ken Fenik said that when the season began, he didn’t believe the Pioneers, who swept Brunswick and Medina in Northeast Ohio Conference Valley Division play, could go as far as they did.
“I told them that and they proved me wrong,” he said. “This is a great team, a super bunch of girls. And (Hoover is) a great team. (Pitcher Tara) Thacker does a great job. This is the era of North Canton Hoover. They’re No. 1 for a reason. But I’m very proud of us. We dealt with a lot of adversity this year.”
Hoover took a 1-0 lead in the third inning and added two runs in the fourth. The Vikings put their championship on ice with a four-run fifth inning in which they sent eight batters to the plate.
Meanwhile, Vikings pitcher Tara Thacker threw a three-hitter in which she struck out six and walked only one. She had a one-hitter — Holly Howser’s third-inning single — going until Kaitlin Laseke singled with two outs in the fifth. Howser also singled in the seventh.
Freshman star Carly Bachna was the only Pioneer to reach third base. She did it in the fourth inning after walking and moving around on Patty Davis’s sacrifice and Alexis Roseboro’s grounder to the right side. Madison Fullmer — running for Howser in the third — and Howser — in the seventh — made it to second base.
In another game:
Bloom-Carroll 3, Columbia 2
The Raiders didn’t change anything during their first appearance on softball’s biggest stage. They kept battling until the final out.
But Columbia ran out of innings before it could figure out Bloom-Carroll pitcher Tarin Alvelo and a frantic seventh-inning rally wasn’t enough at Firestone Stadium.
Columbia (29-5), which defeated Black River and Buckeye in Patriot Athletic Conference play, became the first team in school history to advance to a state tournament. Its coach, Ken Lugo, was an assistant at Highland in 2004. His daughter, Nanette, was an outfielder for Brunswick.
“I feel like we lost a game we should have won, but either way I know I have a championship team here with me,” Lugo said. “This team fought until the end and did all I could ask of them this season, and I am proud of them for all they accomplished.
Alvelo, a sophomore who has already committed to the University of Washington, retired the first 15 hitters before Crystal Fetchet reached base on an error to lead off the sixth inning. Two hitters later, Becky Rose got the Raiders’ first hit with a chopper that bounded high over third base and into left field.
Before Columbia got its first hit, Bloom-Carroll had already struck for three runs.
Alvelo finished the game with 12 strikeouts, ending the year with a total of 363 in 188⅓ innings.
Senior center fielder Kaley Marshall led off the Columbia seventh inning with a double to right-center field and for a moment it looked like the Raiders might have found some late-inning magic.
Emma Sullivan followed Marshall’s double by reaching base on a fielder’s choice before catcher Christine Lyzen delivered the Raiders’ big hit — a double to center field that scored Marshall and Sullivan and brought cut the Bulldogs’ lead to 3-2.
But when Fetchet’s two-out fly ball landed in the glove of Bloom-Carroll right fielder Ashlee Ireland, it was the end of the road for Columbia.
Contact Bob Daniels and Todd Shapiro at email@example.com.