Thanks to their fathers, who started the Cardinal Crush softball
team 12 years ago, North Lewisburg Triad seniors Morgan Perry, Erika
Graves, Ciara Martin, Kristen Cooney, Sally Coleman, Hana Hay, Chelsie Brooks
and Amber Herron, along with the rest of their underclass teammates, find
themselves on the cusp of a Division IV state softball title. This is
Winning one however would be.
AKRON – Ever since they were 6 years old, there’s always been a “next time” for the eight seniors on this year’s North Lewisburg Triad softball team.
Saturday is the “last time.”
Thanks to a walk-off grand slam from senior Chelsie Brooks in the bottom of the 10th inning Thursday, Triad will play in its third straight Division IV state softball championship. The Cardinals beat Warren JFK 5-1 in the state semifinals at Akron’s Firestone Stadium.
Saying Triad’s seniors share a special bond is grossly unjust. None of them have ever played on a softball team without the others. Ever.
“We’ve been playing together since we were six,” senior shortstop Amber Herron said. “We’ve never played on other teams. Every summer and during travel ball we all stuck together and I think that helped us a lot. We know how each other plays.”
Thanks to their fathers, who started the Cardinal Crush softball team 12 years ago, seniors Morgan Perry, Erika Graves, Ciara Martin, Kristen Cooney, Sally Coleman, Hana Hay, Brooks and Herron, along with the rest of their underclass teammates, find themselves on the cusp of a Division IV state softball title. This is nothing new.
Winning one however would be.
With this year’s senior class in the line-up the Cardinals have generated monstrous credentials.
Since the start of the 2005 season the Cardinals are 94-26 with four district titles and four appearances in the regional final. Triad was state runner-up the last two years.
Saturday the Cardinals face Danville in the D-IV final. First pitch at Firestone Stadium is 10 a.m.
“A little more relaxed this time,” Triad coach Shari Dixon said. “The last couple years the kids kind of psyched themselves out before we ever got on that field Saturday. Hopefully this time the monkey is off our back.”
Dixon should have said Bulldog. This time Triad won’t have to play Dalton.
In the 2006 final the Bulldogs beat the Cardinals 1-0. Last year Dalton won 3-1. Triad had three hits and 18 strikeouts in the two championship games combined.
Dalton lost in the regional semifinals to JFK.
“It’s such a high that first day when you win and think you’re going to go get the championship and then to get beat by the same team twice really hurt us,” Herron said. “Our drive has been that we’re not going to let it happen again.”
“The first year we were still excited,” Brooks said. “It was our sophomore year and we were just thrilled to get there. Then last year losing to the same team and not playing to our full potential kind of sucked. It hit us a lot harder.”
This year the Cardinals scripted a familiar route to state: put together a solid, but not spectacular regular season, and turn it on come tournament time.
Triad started 2-3, had a three-game losing streak midseason and finished 3-3 in its final six games.
“The last three years the same group of kids has done the same thing,” Dixon said. “We lose one and we’re ok, we show no emotion. But come tournament time they step it up and they are ready to play.”
Tournament time is Triad’s time. Heading into the state final the Cardinals have outscored postseason opponents 61-6.
This is also the eight seniors’ sixth state tournament game.
“This group has been playing together since they were six,” Dixon said. “It’s come from the very bottom all the way up and they’ve never given up. It seems like they’re on a mission now. And they want to finish it off.”
“Come Saturday we have to do anything and everything,” Herron said. “We have to leave it all out on the field. Don’t have any regrets. Don’t have any doubts.
“There is no more next time.”