Rain has spoiled many events over the years. On Friday night, it forced the Orange softball team to share something it would have liked to keep for itself.
The Pioneers allowed Hayes an unearned run in the third inning of their Ohio Capital Conference Capital Division game at Orange High School, and the heavy rains stopped the game in the top of the sixth inning, giving the Pacers a 1-0 win and a share of the conference title.
Orange (23-3, 12-2 OCC Capital) had its share wrapped up even after a recent loss to Hilliard Bradley, but for Hayes (17-4, 12-2), the title share is its second OCC crown in as many seasons.
“A win’s a win, but I didn’t want to win like this,” Hayes coach Mark Thomas said. “Our girls played well, their girls played well, and it was a shame it ended like it did. Orange has had a great season and (Pioneers coach) Bruce (Leary) has done a great job building this program to the level it is today. I just wish we would have gotten a full seven innings, but we’ll certainly take a share of the OCC title.”
“It was certainly disappointing not to be able to play a complete game, but you have to hand it to Delaware Hayes,” Leary said. “They appeared to have shown up a little more ready to play than we were, but I’m still extremely proud of this team. We’re co-champions of our league, we’re having a great year and we’re looking forward to a great tournament run.”
Pitching dominated the day. Hayes sophomore right-hander Mikayla Cooper pitched a five-inning no-hitter, allowing just one walk and one hit batsman while striking out three. Cooper had a tough second inning as Orange put a runner at third with one out, but got out of the jam with help from her defense, and retired the side in order in her other four innings.
“This is probably the best Mikayla’s looked all year,” Thomas said. “She was determined and she was focused. She told (assistant) coach (Jordan) Blackburn before the game, ‘Put the ball in my hand and we’re going to run with it.”
Orange junior Mason Robinson was saddled with a hard-luck loss, but had pinpoint command all the way through. Robinson worked 5 1/3 innings, allowing just the unearned run on four hits with two walks while striking out six.
“Mason really didn’t allow them to hit anything hard,” Leary said. “She had control of the game. Both pitchers did a great job tonight.”
Orange’s second inning started with a walk to senior designated player Jenny Sims, who was removed for junior pinch runner Valery Rojas. Rojas went to second on a sacrifice bunt by Robinson, then took third on a wild pitch with sophomore infielder Rachel Ramsey at the dish.
But the Pacers got out of the inning when Cooper fielded a come-backer and retired Rojas trying to score. Pioneer junior Kaitlyn Brown was then hit by a pitch, putting runners at first and second, but Cooper coaxed a ground out to end the inning.
In the next half inning, Hayes got its chance. With one out, freshman outfielder Jordan Osborne beat out a bunt down the third base line and took second on a walk to Cooper.
With sophomore catcher Kaitlyn Woerner at the plate, Cooper strayed off first base, attempting to draw a throw from Orange freshman catcher Kyle Davidson. Davidson sprinted into the infield trying to force Cooper to move, but her throw to second got away from the infielders for an error.
Osborne then darted around third, but Davidson recovered quickly, getting back to home plate in plenty of time. The throw from the infield was on the mark, but Osborne was able to kick the ball out of Davidson’s glove and score the game’s only run.
“We saw the opportunity, a little window that we had to take advantage of the error and score the run,” Thomas said. “It was fortunate for us that Jordan was able to knock the ball out of the catcher’s glove, but you need a little luck in this game.”
“Kyle did everything fine on that play,” Leary said. “It was just unfortunate for us the ball was kicked loose.”
Hayes had another chance to score in the fourth, loading the bases with one out, but Orange junior third baseman Kelly Byrum got a force out at the plate, fielding a smash off Woerner’s bat to retire Hayes freshman Lindsey Blair at the plate.
Robinson got out of the inning when senior shortstop Abby Davidson fielded a grounder and threw across for the final out of that inning, but the Orange offense could not get the equalizer as Cooper closed the game retiring the final 10 batters she faced.
Osborne, Woerner, freshman Lindsey Blair and sophomore Rebekah Hire had the four hits for Hayes, all singles.