AKRON — Indian Lake hit the ball hard all day, but a sensational Wheelersburg defense prevented the Lakers from winning their first state title here Saturday.
The Lakers were held to just two hits despite making solid contact throughout the lineup as the Pirates leaned on their flawless defense and powerful offense for a 6-0 victory in a Division III championship game at Firestone Stadium.
It marked the only time all season Indian Lake, which came in hitting .430 as a team, was shut out by its opponent.
“We hit the ball hard, but it was right at them, and then there were a couple times I thought for sure we had a hit and they made a great play,” said Indian Lake first-year head coach John Stahl. “Give credit to them. They are a phenomenal team.”
Wheelersburg, which won its second straight state crown and capped a perfect season at 32-0, scored four runs in the third inning for a 4-0 lead.
It was the first time the Lakers (27-4) trailed in the postseason. Indian Lake had allowed only two runs in the tournament up until Saturday’s third inning.
IL pitcher Madison Brentlinger said she battled chest pain from before the game began, but she did her best to keep the Lakers in the game.
“It was tough, but I just battled through it,” she said.
Wheelersburg tacked on a pair of insurance runs in the top of the seventh.
Macee Eaton, who has signed with Virginia, worked a two-out walk before shortstop Catie Boggs launched a two-run home run over the 225-foot center-field wall to make it 6-0.
Indian Lake only struck out twice, but could only manage a pair of singles off of Wheelersburg left-handed pitcher Andi Jo Howard.
Porscha Davis broke up Howard’s no-hit bid with a two-out single to center in the bottom of the fifth and Halle Roby reached on an infield single with one out in the seventh.
However, after Roby’s hit, Howard was able to induce a pair of flyouts to end the game and make it back-to-back titles for the team that hails from near Portsmouth on the Ohio River.
The Pirates finished with seven hits. Brentlinger struck out four and walked two.
Although there was some disappointment on the faces of the Lakers in the moments following the game, they were already looking forward to next season.
“We will be back here,” stated sophomore catcher Mackenzie Dixon. “We will definitely be back.”
“As they (announced on the field after the game) there have been a lot of firsts for us this year,” said Stahl. “Our first regional championship, the first time Indian Lake has played in a state final … and a lot of other team and individual records.
“The girls have been very accepting of me and we did some great things this year.”
In her postgame press conference, Wheelersburg head coach Theresa Ruby talked about the lofty expectations now hovering over her program, which will bring back seven starters next spring in an attempt to win a third straight title.
“I haven’t been able to breathe since December and we’re five minutes into this and you’re talking about three,” said Ruby with a laugh after one of her players mentioned the team’s goal of winning a third title next season.
The expectations will be similarly high for the Lakers in 2024. They will return eight players that were starters this season.
“We’re going to fight and claw to get back here next year,” said Stahl.
WHEELERSBURG 6, Indian Lake 0
Pirates 004 000 2 — 6 7 0
Lakers 000 000 0 — 0 2 1