As this writer, The Madison Press sports editor Chris Miles, racked up the miles driving across the state of Ohio last week covering Jonathan Alder in both the Division II regional baseball and softball tournaments, he was able to take some notes from what was a memorable weekend for the Pioneers.
Regional roadblock cleared
Jonathan Alder High School softball assistant and pitching coach Heather Widner’s name appears nine times in the Ohio High School Association’s state softball record book.
The former All-Ohio standout at Bishop Ready from 2004-2007 holds the state record for strikeouts in a seven inning game (21). She is also in the top 20 in a number of categories including wins in a season (28), career wins (88), shutouts in a season (20), career shutouts (49), no-hitters in a career (17), consecutive wins (27), consecutive shutouts (10) and consecutive shutout innings (72).
But for all of the things she was able to accomplish on the field, one particular team accomplishment eluded Widner and her Silver Knights teammates. Neither she, nor they ever made it to the state tournament, losing in the regional finals three years in a row and another time in a district final.
So when Alder was able to rally past Springfield Shawnee on Saturday, May 31, for a 8-7 victory in a Division II regional championship, Widner couldn’t help but be a little reminiscent.
“I’ve definitely been to this point before and to get to see these girls get to the state is a great feeling,” Widner said. “When it was a one-run game I started to worry a little.”
You have to understand the history with Widner and one-run losses in regionals, in 2004 she lost 1-0 to Wheelersburg in a D-III regional final. A year later she lost a 5-4 contest with Zane Trace at the same level and in 2006 another 1-0 regional final defeat. The last one at the hands of Bloom-Caroll cost Widner a shot at playing in the state tournament.
Widner will play a major role in the Pioneers quest to extend their season when they play defending D-II state champion Licking Valley at 12:30 p.m. on Thursday, June 5. Widner’s pitch calling and experience in playing in big games will surely help Alder.
The pressure to perform
Making the state tournament four times in a five-year span like the Alder baseball team has will open a lot of eyes. It will also put a little pressure on the other team in the school that plays on a diamond.
There’s no doubting the fact that winning is contagious and the softball Pioneers are taking cues from their baseball counterparts.
“There really is something there, when they win, we want to win,” softball senior Brooke Foster said. “It’s awesome, we are so happy when they do well, it’s crazy, we have two great teams playing in the Final Four in the state tournament.
“You know there is sometimes that feeling of ‘the boys are doing it, so we need to hold up our end,’ hopefully the boys win a state championship and we win a state championship and we’ll have two titles to take back to Alder.”
It’s just not the softball players that feel the need to succeed. McGrew sees first hand the impact of having a championship-caliber program so close.
“The pressure of the baseball team is a big thing to live up to. I was at the baseball game (regional final) and it was like it’s an everyday thing, ‘hey we’re going back to the state,’ then jump in the car and go home. (Coach Craig) Kyle has done a wonderful job with that program and our girls take heed to that and want to taste it too. We’re headed in the right direction program.”
Who’s wants pizza?
There were a number of people who made multiple trips to Mason High School and Wright State University last week, but only one family had players competing on both teams. Taylor and LeAnn Gaerke are the proud parents of baseball pitching ace Tanner and softball starting shortstop Taylor.
A recent trend of getting pizza following tournament wins by either team wins means the Gaerke family has had its share of pizza lately. Pizza Thursday, pizza Friday and pizza Saturday is enough to put someone in a pizza funk, but the Gaerkes aren’t complaining because the more pizza they’re ordering means the more the Pioneers are winning.
Chris Miles can be reached at (740) 852-1616, ext. 18 or via Twitter @MadPressSports.