AKRON – Triad had beaten plenty of Tigers this season, from arch-rival West Liberty-Salem to sectional foe Ansonia.
Back in the Division IV softball state finals for the first time since 2008, the Cardinals couldn’t get the job done, falling to the Shadyside Tigers, 1-0, on Saturday.
“This team’s got a lot of heart,” Triad Coach Shari Dixon said. “They just stepped up to the plate and did whatever was asked of them. It just wasn’t for us today.”
The game was a tense, scoreless affair all the way to the end. Each team threatened a couple of times, but the hits weren’t there and they traded goose eggs on the scoreboard until the 8th inning.
A couple of defensive miscues finally cost the Cardinals in the bottom of the frame. Nicole Simonelli, hampered by an ankle injury for the entire season, was a bit slow getting to a grounder. Ali Dixon came from second to cover, but the throw was just a beat late.
The next batter laid down a bunt and Jenna Ober mishandled the ball charging in from third. She nearly got the out anyway, but again the throw was late and gave the Tigers runners at the corners with nobody out.
A suicide squeeze was the call from the Shadyside coaches, and Triad pitcher Hannah Watkins was a half-second too late with the toss home.
Triad had its chances offensively, loading the bases in the seventh inning with two outs, but Maddy Collier grounded out to end the threat.
Both teams left runners on base, with Triad stranding 6 and Shadyside leaving 8 on board.
Shadyside pitcher Megan Heagney was spectacular, striking out 13 batters over her 8 innings of work.
Nobody had more than one hit for Triad. Ober and Simonelli were each 1 for 3 and Madison Dolby and Welty were each 1 for 4.
Triad had a difficult time making solid contact and failed to get several bunts down.
“It’s tough when you struggle to hit the ball,” Dixon said.
Triad finishes the season 26-4 and earns the school’s fourth runner-up finish in the last 10 years.