By Garth Shanklin
The OHSAA Softball record book lists records dating as far back as 1978. Nearly 40 years worth of hits, home runs, wins and strikeouts. Clermont County is well represented in the record books, with Felicity-Franklin’s Montana Wear appearing several times throughout the listings. Entering play this season, Wear holds the state record for no-hitters in a career with 28. She was the only Clermont County softball player to hold a state record, until Thursday, May 18, that is.
Williamsburg junior Carly Wagers lined a solo home run into left field for her 19th home run of the season, breaking the state single-season record. For good measure, Wagers launched a three-run home run in her next at-bat, propelling Williamsburg to an 11-0 win over Felicity-Franklin in the second round of the sectional tournament.
Early on, it did not look like the Lady Wildcats were going to be able to get anything going offensively. Felicity’s Lauren Mitchell kept Williamsburg off the board thanks in large part to excellent defense behind her.
“The defense turned it on,” Felicity head coach Donnie Hall said. “They stepped up today. We didn’t have any errors until the fifth inning.”
The teams were scoreless until the fourth inning, when Wagers led off the frame with her record-breaking blast. The home run was her fourth in the last two games against the Lady Cardinals, and she attributed her success at the plate to the support she gets from her teammates.
“It feels amazing,” Wagers said. “I just felt in the groove those two games, I felt on my game. With my team cheering in the background really loud, it’s a great confidence booster.”
Rylee Clark reached base right after Wagers and scored Williamsburg’s second run on a single by Makayla Kirschner.
Felicity put a pair of runners in scoring position in the top of the fifth inning, but Wagers struck out Grace Kirkham-Hartley to end the inning.
The Lady Wildcat offense erupted in their half of the fifth. With two on and one out, Wagers homered again, a three-run blast that put Williamsburg on top 5-0. Clark doubled into left-center, Kara Bailey walked and Kirschner walked to load the bases. Emma Jeffers was hit with a pitch to score Williamsburg’s sixth run.
Ffreshman Haley Speeg got into the action with an infield single that scored Bailey, and Faith Golden ended the game with a walk-off grand slam that triggered the 10-run rule.
“They’re a good hitting team,” Hall said. “In my opinion, the strike zone changed a bit. It got a bit smaller, and if you throw the ball right down the middle to a good-hitting team, they’re going to hit the ball.”
Williamsburg head coach Rick Healey said the ability Golden has shown with the bat this season could result in a change in the batting order down the road.
“I’ve always had the philosophy that I’d like to have somebody fast and who can get on base in the nine hole so it’s like a leadoff hitter in the next time,” Healey said. “If she keeps hitting like that I may have to move her, I can’t leave her in the nine spot.”
Healey also commented on the slow start, saying the team’s familiarity with each other made it difficult early on.
“When you play somebody that’s in your league and you’ve already played them twice, it’s a little difficult sometimes to get up and excited,” Healey said. “In the tournament, this is lose and you go home. We waited, it took a wake-up call saying ‘Hey, if you don’t start playing, you might be done.’”
Wagers’ record-breaking home run may have helped wake up the team, but it definitely takes a load off of her shoulders as well as the team’s.
“That’s been the monkey on our back since she hit three in Felicity,” Healey said. “Every game since, it’s been, ‘OK, when is it going to come?’ It got done, we can move forward. We don’t have to talk about it anymore.”
That said, Healey recognized how important the milestone was for the Williamsburg community as a whole.
“You have to stop and think about what it actually is,” Healey said. “You think about all the girls that have played high school softball in Ohio at that level for all those years, and to think that somebody from our school, one of our players, has broken that record, it’s big.”
He added that he wanted to make sure the entire team recognized their role in Wagers’ accomplishment, as she could not have done it by herself.
“I want them to have ownership in that and always remember it’s part of their season,” Healey said. “It’s a team record as much as it’s an individual record. They’re cheering for Carly, they’re getting on base and making the pitcher work. If she came up every time with nobody on, they’d never pitch to her. It’s a team thing as well as an individual, at this point, if we can hammer home the team, we’ll be all right.”
With the loss, Felicity now turns their attention to next season, where the Lady Cardinals will hope to improve in the circle.
“We had a down season,” Hall said. “We had some girls pitching that aren’t pitchers, they haven’t pitched in a long time. We’ve got a lot of young players, we only graduate two, so we have a lot coming back next year. We’ll be right there.”
Williamsburg continued their postseason run in the sectional tournament final against St. Bernard in Lebanon on Tuesday, May 16. That game was not completed before press time. Should the Lady Wildcats win, they would advance to the district finals in Mason on Saturday, May 20 at 2 p.m.