By Chris Chaney
Two Clermont County softball teams are still standing after the sectional portion of the state tournament and one of them might surprise you.
We know all about Clermont Northeastern. The Lady Rockets boast one of the best rosters in the state and have looked primed to realize their goals of getting back upstate for the fourth straight year again in 2013.
The other sectional champions are the Lady Cardinals of Felicity-Franklin. Like CNE, Felicity won it’s fourth straight sectional title on Monday, May 20, but they didn’t have the acclaim and expectations lumped on them heading into 2013. Perhaps that could be why they have been so good.
“You have to keep the fun of the game intact,” Lady Cardinals head coach Rob Wear said. “It’s high school ball. If you’re having fun and enjoying what you’re doing you don’t make those mistakes because you remember your fundamentals. When you put that extra pressure on yourself — it isn’t necessary.
“See the ball, hit the ball. See the ball, catch the ball.”
Coming off three consecutive trips to the district finals, largely in part to exceptional pitching from alumna Montana Wear and veteran leadership that has since graduated, Felicity wasn’t expected to be much of a force in the Southern Buckeye Conference, much less the state tournament.
“I’m extremely proud of (this team),” Wear said. “This group of young ladies have got a lot of talent all the way around. When it comes time, they just don’t quit. They believe in each other.”
Maybe the most impressive part of the Lady Cardinals’ run has been the makeup of the team; all but four members of the squad are sophomores or freshmen.
Felicity has won three games by a combined four runs to get to their district final. They haven’t made it easy on themselves, but their never-say-die attitude has proven enough to get them to the precipice of the regionals.
That tenacity was at work once again in their sectional final upset of Reading. The Lady Cardinals scored two runs in the top of the 7th inning to take a 5-4 lead and sophomore Sandy Woodmansee shut the door on the Lady Blue Devils, getting three outs in order to win the game.
Felicity will play Brookville on Friday, May 24 at Tippecanoe High School at 5pm. Wear said he doesn’t know much about their opponent and instead will try to work on preparing his team saying that if they play their game, they have a chance any time they take the field.
The other local school making a district finals appearance, CNE, is an expected one. The burden of expectation can be heavy, however, so the Lady Rockets never took anything for granted. A 10-0, six-inning win over Madeira was jus their latest throttling of an opponent.
The Lady Rockets have yet to play a full seven-inning game yet this postseason, run-ruling each of their three opponents.
“We’re playing well right now,” Lady Rockets head coach Bill Goldfuss said. “We’re not exactly where we want to be, but we’re pretty close. We’re hitting well, pitching well and fielding well, so we’re close to where we want to be.”
A major factor in the shortness of their outings has been the performance of their star pitcher, Emily Anderson. Anderson has recorded 12, 14 and 11 strikeouts in each of CNE’s respective games. Currently sitting sixth all-time in Ohio High School fast-pitch softball in career strikeouts with 1,234, Anderson and her teammates are proving to be quite the tough out in the tournament.
The goals have been consistent from the jump.
“We’re taking it one day at a time, but ultimately we want to get to state,” Goldfuss said. “State’s what we’ve worked for since last May. To get that close and be on the doorstep of being a final four team in the state was tough, but we’re going to take it one at a time.”
Last season, the Lady Rockets fell in the regional final to — guess who? — Felicity-Franklin. This year, Goldfuss, Anderson and the rest of the Lady Rockets are not willing to settle for anything less than a trip to state.
They can take that next step on Saturday, May 25 when they play Carlisle at 1 p.m. at Tippecanoe High School.
“Each game, the team we play gets tougher and tougher,” Goldfuss said. “Right now, our focus is on Carlisle and if we get past them we’ll worry about whoever is next. To win in the tournament you’ve got to be good and have a little luck and play well on game day. With seven seniors, I don’t think being ready will be an issue. They’ve played in big games before so (nerves) shouldn’t be a factor.”
Coming from opposite sides of the brackets, CNE and Felicity would only meet again if both can win two more games forcing a rematch in the regional final on June 1.