AKRON — All good things must come to an end.
The Jonathan Alder softball team’s unprecidented, season-long run came up just one stop short with a state championship-game loss to Lima Bath on Saturday, June 7.
The Division II state championship Bath won with its 7-3 victory over Jonathan Alder at Akron’s Firestone Stadium was something the Wildkittens were thinking about almost since the day they started playing organized softball.
“Tee-ball. Coach pitch,” Bath catcher Julia Miller said about when softball dreams begin at Bath. “You watch the varsity games, and you look up to those girls until you get up to high school.”
The Wildkittens joined the 2001 Bath team as a state champion with their win. They are the eighth Bath team overall to reach the state tournament.
Bath (29-1) watched Jonathan Alder take a 1-0 lead in the top of the first inning, then answered with two runs of its own in the bottom of the inning. Then it took control of the game by sending 10 batters to the plate and scoring four more runs in the second.
Even with leads of 6-1, 7-2 and finally 7-3, the Wildkittens kept their eyes on the game, not the ultimate prize.
“I knew we couldn’t relax. We had to keep pushing forward but I don’t think we ever felt like we won the game until the final out in the seventh inning,” Bath coach Hannah Slavin said.
But once that final out settled into second baseman Alyssa Manley’s glove, it was time to celebrate.
“As soon as I saw it was a fly ball I was like, ‘We’re going to be state champions.’ It was amazing,” said Miller.
Shortstop Kara Dientsberger, who went 3 for 4 to lead Bath’s offense, said, “It was amazing. I absolutely loved it. My feelings were going every which way in my stomach. It was awesome.”
Jonathan Alder (28-2) got a double from Brooke Foster to lead off the game, and she scored on a double by Mady Watson two batters later. The Pioneers had runners on first and second base when the inning ended on a pop-up.
“They were good pitches. They jumped on them. After the first couple batters I settled in and we worked out of it,” Reynolds said.
Answering with two runs in the bottom of the inning was a significant part of that process.
“It was big for us. We tried to come out ready to go. We were nervous but we got it,” Reynolds said.
After giving up two first-inning hits, Reynolds (10 strikeouts, 2 walks) allowed only two more hits the rest of the way and contributed an RBI single from the clean-up spot during the four-run second inning. She finished the season with a 27-1 record.
Jenna Hollar and Dientsberger also had run-scoring singles in the second inning. Jonathan Alder pitcher Watson walked three hitters and threw a wild pitch that brought home a run in that inning. The Pioneers’ defense also had an error during the four-run uprising, one of three it had in the game.
“I think we might have come out a little anxious. I wish we could have pushed a couple across there in that first inning,” Alder coach Dave McGrew said. “Our defense was our backbone all season, and it kind of wavered just a little bit in the first couple innings.
“Give Bath credit. They’re a good team, they’re not here by not being good,” he said.
Bath’s state championship came in Slavin’s first year as head coach after long-time coach Laura Ford retired.
Jonathan Alder’s softball history is the opposite of Bath’s. Until this year, it had never won a district championship. “It stings. Our goal was to get to district. But once we got there, we realized how good we could be,” McGrew said.
“The girls really stepped up today,” Slavin said. “Usually we put a lot of emphasis on our defense. We still did today. What I’m really proud of is we came ready offensively and capitalized on some of their mistakes.”
Miller said, “Every single game every one of us stepped up. We came out and did what we had to do and got a state championship.”