By Chris Chaney
And then there were two.
Two weeks ago when the sectional playoffs began, 20 Clermont County baseball and softball teams took to the field with hopes of state championship runs fresh in their minds. Now, as the calendar flips from May to June, the Felicity-Franklin and Bethel-Tate girls’ softball teams are the only ones still standing.
Playing late into the season has become old hat for the Felicity team, earning their fifth sectional title last week and becoming the fourth district championship team from the school over the same span with their 6-3 win over Fort Loramie on Saturday, May 24.
“It’s huge,” head coach Rob Wear said of the run of success Felicity has enjoyed recently. “These girls work hard. They really, truly do. They want to do well. They’re like a family; they believe in each other and believe in me and I believe in them. It’s a good recipe.”
The Lady Cardinals trailed 1-0 after the first inning at Tippecanoe High School, but took a 2-1 lead in the second inning. Loramie added two more runs in the third and Felicity matched them in the home half of the inning to keep a one-run advantage.
The Lady Cardinals’ defense stiffened following the third inning, thanks to solid pitching from junior Sandy Woodmansee and a veteran core of fielders behind her.
“I called a huddle (after the third inning) and told them, ‘Ladies, you’ve worked too hard and for too long to beat yourselves and that’s what you’re doing,’” Wear said. “We had four errors and gave up two runs. I told them to pick it up and play your game and from that point on, they played lights out.”
Felicity will face Minster in the regional semifinal on Thursday, May 29 at 5 p.m. at Tippecanoe High School. This will be the Lady Cardinals first trip back to the regional round since 2012 when Felicity was led by current Wright State pitcher Montana Wear to the state semifinals.
“We’re still pretty young,” Wear said of this year’s team. “The only senior we have is out (injured). It’s all about getting them to believe in themselves. Sandy (Woodmansee) is pitching well, we’re hitting, the infield is solid. I tell the ladies all the time, I hold the ball up and say, ‘this ball doesn’t know who’s supposed to win. If you want, go get it.’”
As for Bethel, playing after school gets out is a new phenomenon. In fact, the Lady Tigers haven’t played more than one game in the postseason in any of the last four years. This season, however, Bethel has played and won four times, most recently in the Division III district final over Waynesville, 3-0, on May 24 at Tippecanoe.
“We’re playing really well and putting together a good string of games where we have to play good against good opponents,” Bethel-Tate head coach Matt Weber said. “We’re playing loose. They’re not fighting or worrying about missing one ball here or there. They’re playing hard and worrying about what’s in front of them.”
Bethel was in action on Wednesday, May 28 at Wright State University, facing off with Richwood North Union in a matchup of four and five seeds.
“Our expectations is that we are going to have to play well like we did against Waynesville,” Weber said. “We’ll need some good pitching. We don’t get any breaks in their lineup; they’re solid through their nine and we’ll have to work hard to get outs.”
The result of the game was unavailable at the time this edition went to print.
Finally, the only other team from the area who had a chance to make a bid for a state tournament run was the Lady Wildcats of Williamsburg. Playing across the regional bracket from Bethel-Tate, Burg fell 4-1 in a district final against Milton-Union on Saturday, also at Tippecanoe.
The Lady Wildcats finished their season as the Southern Buckeye Conference National Division co-champions (along with Felicity) and a record of 26-3. Burg loses five seniors to graduation, but a solid core including Player of the Year Kacey Smith, a freshman pitcher, will be back for the Lady Wildcats next season.
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