FINDLAY — As the Mohawk seniors walked down the aisle Saturday night to get their diplomas, the four from the softball team have a little extra to be proud of as they returned the program back to dominance and have set it up for years to come.
The Warriors (21-6) last won the Midland Athletic League championship and earned a regional birth when Molli Cartwright, Ashley Cooper, Nikki Kieffer and Dani Tyree were freshmen, but the four capped off their senior career Saturday by doing both again.
No. 6 Mohawk lost to No. 3 Convoy Crestview, 4-1, in the regional final Saturday afternoon. The Knights face off at 12:30 p.m. Thursday against No. 1 Strasburg-Franklin at Akron’s Firestone Stadium.
After facing a season of tragedy in which the team lost a father, friend and classmate in three consecutive months, the Warriors still prevailed.
“Regardless of what happened, I think these girls would have still been here,” Mohawk coach Jenny Weinandy said. “They’re strong athletes and they’re aggressive. The seniors have really pulled this team through with the help of aggressive underclassman.”
In the three days following the death of classmate Audrey Perkins, the Warriors were pushed to the limit mentally as they defeated rival Carey to clinch a share of the league title, and won districts with wins against McComb, 2-0, and North Baltimore, 8-1, respectively.
“You have a bond with the girls in whatever sport you play and now we don’t have that anymore and as a senior, that’s what sucks the most about losing,” Cartwright said. “It makes you feel good about yourself and about the people you play with that you were able to accomplish something so great. We might not have come out on top, but we tried our best.”
“It means a lot,” Kieffer said. “It feels good knowing we got this far, but it just sucks that we had an off day.”
Along with Cartwright, Cooper can also hang her hat on a volleyball state final four appearance.
“It makes you feel like you’ve accomplished great things, knowing that you’ve come this far in two sports,” Cooper said.
Not only has this year’s graduates been able to make their own memories, but they have set the table for future Warriors to make their own after already getting the rest of the program to get the taste of a title and deep tournament run.
“I have a junior high program that’s just wanting to get to that varsity level,” Weinandy said. “I have some freshman this year. I have a good (junior varsity) team. I’m not going to complain over the next few years because we’re going to be strong.”
“Don’t give up,” Tyree said as advice to those returning. “Just keep working. There’s four of us they lost, but the eighth graders coming up, and I’ve watched them play, they’re talented. Our JV is talented. In the coming years, our softball will make it to state. I know it will. There’s so much talent. Keep working at it and it will come.”
Not only does Mohawk return those who played this season, but also sophomore pitcher Julie Adelsperger, who sat out the season due to tearing her ACL this winter.
Given the chance to take on the full-time pitching duties this spring, sister Kasey stepped up in a big way by going 19-5 and held a 1.02 earned run average, while also batting .515.
“Kasey has really been there for the team, throwing her best every game,” Weinandy said. “It would have been nice to have Julie, but I guess we can look forward to that next year as we’ll be a little deeper in pitching.”
The outgoing seniors occupied the right side of the diamond as they played catcher, first base, second base and right field.
The seniors returned the program to where they returned it, with an MAL championship and a regional appearance. Now it is expected for the next group of players to return it to the levels of 2003 and 2005 — a state championship.
By PATRICK MASSARA