COLUMBUS — The 41st Annual Ohio High School Athletic Association softball state tournament begins Thursday morning at historic Firestone Stadium in Akron. Sixteen teams that have battled their way through sectional, district and regional tournaments will play for the chance at state championships in four division over the course of the weekend.
Four teams — Beloit West Branch, Lancaster Fairfield Union, Bradford and Defiance Tinora — are making their first ever appearance in the softball state tournament, while one 2017 state champion — Warren Champion (Division III) — is back in Akron to defend its crown.
The divisional order of play is II, I, IV, III. All 12 games will be broadcast live by the OHSAA Radio Network, while the state championship games will also be televised on tape delay on channel 311, Sunday, June 3 by Spectrum Sports.
The state tournament begins Thursday morning at 10 a.m. with the Division II semifinal between unranked Beloit West Branch (26-3) and No. 8 Plain City Jonathan Alder (21-6). Jonathan Alder is back in the final four for the second year in a row and making its third state appearance, finishing as runner-up in 2014. West Branch is making its first state softball appearance. The second Division II semifinal includes No. 1 LaGrange Keystone (32-0) and another first time participant, unranked Lancaster Fairfield Union (14-10). Keystone is making its fourth-consecutive trip and state-record 17th overall.
Jonathan Alder coach Dave McGrew likes where his team’s frame of mind is right now. The usually laid back group is confident and loose.
“This team is playful and goofy,” he said. “They’re also resilient. They just want to play. We had a 9 a.m. Memorial Day practice and they showed up and laid down the best practice of the year. They’re very focused right now.”
West Branch only has three loses on the season, two coming to D-III state favorite Warren Champion. The team is led by Duke University signee Kylie Coffel and Malone University-bound Kelsey Byers. The two have split time pitching and playing first base this season.
One thing Alder does as good a job as anybody is preparing for the next opponent. The Pioneers have a full scouting report on the opposition and the coaching staff continues to prep for this weekend.
“We have six of us now with the JV team being done,” McGrew said of the coaching staff. “(Glen) Widner and (Heather) Colvin are two of the best teachers of softball on the planet. They are very good, we have pretty detailed scouting report on every team we play. We have a plan. We could lose at any point in the state tournament but it won’t be for lack of preparation. We’ll be ready to play.”
The D-II state championship game will be played Saturday, June 2, at 10 a.m. back in Akron.
Other state tourney action
Division I play is Thursday afternoon with No. 3 Perrysburg (30-2) competing against unranked West Chester Lakota West (25-3). Perrysburg is making its first state tournament appearance since 1991 when the Yellowjackets took home the state title. Lakota West is making its first state appearance since 2011 and its fourth overall. Thursday’s games conclude with unranked Ashville Teays Valley (23-3) facing unranked Massillon Perry (23-5). Teays Valley is making its fourth state appearance, with the last being in 2016. Perry also is making its fourth state appearance and is aiming for a similar outcome from 2010 when the Panthers were state champions.
Division IV play launches Friday morning with No. 1 Jeromesville Hillsdale (24-2) facing No. 10 Bradford (22-3). Hillsdale is making its 15th state appearance. Bradford knocked off No. 3 Rockford Parkway in the regional final. The second semifinal game has unranked and state tournament newcomer Defiance Tinora (17-6) playing No. 5 Strasburg-Franklin (20-5). Strasburg defeated last year’s state runner-up Danville 11-5 at the regional finals in the regional final.
Friday afternoon, Division III semifinal games will take place. No. 3 Richwood North Union (25-2) plays defending champion No. 1 Warren Champion (29-0). North Union knocked off 2017 champion Williamsburg in the regional final and is making its first state appearance since 2015. Champion, a six time state champ, is back to the final four for a second year in a row. Concluding Friday’s games will be No. 4 Cardington-Lincoln (25-3) versus unranked Lore City Buckeye Trail (24-3). Lincoln is making its second consecutive state appearance. Buckeye Trail is making its first appearance since 1979.
Reach Chris Miles at 740-852-1616, ext. 1618 or via Twitter @MadPressSports. Morgan Smith, OHSAA Communications, contributed to this story.
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