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Defending state champions too much for Rebels

COLUMBIANA — The American Flag couldn’t stop flying from its post out in center field, just to the north end of the Crestview football stadium.

The occasional sand flew in from the infield, funneling about 35 miles an hour to home plate.

People scrambled to hold on to their folding chairs. Sunglasses were used as shields more than keep out the rare peeks of sun on a mostly cloudy sky.

Good luck holding on to a scorebook unless it was clamped to a clipboard. Steadying a reporter’s notebook on top of that wasn’t easy.

None of those deterred a veteran Champion softball team which has seven state championships in its storied history. Yes, these Golden Flashes are the defending Division III state title holders.

With that experience, a little wind, or big gusts in this case, are non-factor.

Allison Smith stood on the mound, felt the breeze at her back and she didn’t waver.

It was the Crestview batters who battled more than Mother Nature. Smith had nine strikeouts and faced 16 batters in Thursday’s 10-0 victory over the Rebels in five innings.

Smith threw her ninth strikeout to end the game, to complete the team’s sixth shutout and give her a no-hitter.

Windy conditions didn’t deter this Champion ace.

“I kind of throw to the glove and hope for the best,” said Smith, whose team is 6-0.

She saw her catcher, Gabby Hollenbaugh, in the background while giving this interview.

“Gabby gives a pretty nice target. It’s pretty easy to throw to,” Smith said as she smiled.

Carli Swipas and Megan Turner each had liners to right and left fields resulting in two RBIs each in the bottom of the second to give Champion a 5-0 lead heading into the top of the third.

Kiersten Jones, who pinch hit in the bottom of the fourth, added two more RBIs to lead to a run-rule game in the fifth, where one team is up by 10 or more runs.

Nothing but singles for a Golden Flashes team with the propensity for home runs and extra-base hits.

Megan Turner, whose team beat Marlington in an eight inning, 1-0 game earlier this season, faced this kind of stiff breeze on that day.

“It’s like hitting a wall, and it drops right down,” said Turner, who was 3 for 3 with 3 RBIs. “When we go up, we just look for line drives.”

Adjustments were made. Championship teams like these Golden Flashes are good for a reason.

“They always do what we need,” Champion coach Cheryl Weaver said. “It’s fantastic. We’re enjoying this.”

The game, which was the Golden Flashes home contest, was moved to Crestview Thursday afternoon due to Champion’s field conditions. The two teams will play one another twice every year as All-American League, Blue Tier opponents when the Rebels join the AAC next season. Ironically, the two play later this season as Crestview has plenty of AAC foes on their schedule.

“This wind will dry out our field,” Weaver said. “Hopefully we’re back playing on our own.”

That might be next week. The Golden Flashes take on a dominant Akron Hoban tonight at 6:15 p.m., in the Akron Racers Spring Showcase at Firestone Stadium — home of the state championship softball contests. Champion plays Chardon and Stow-Munroe Falls on Saturday in Akron.

“That’s going to be a test for us,” said Weaver of her team playing a talented Hoban squad. “It’s always good because the girls have to see what they have to do.”

Crestview coach Greg Eskra, whose team dropped to 4-5, said it was difficult night for the Rebels. That was due to Smith’s dominance.

“You’ve got to be state champions for a reason,” he said. “She threw a heckuva game. We were off for sure.”

CV: 0-0-0-0-0 – 0-0-2

CH: 1-4-2-3-x – 10-8-0

CH– Allison Smith, wp (9K, 0BB)

CR–Mackenzie Daub, lp (0K, 3BB)

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