FINDLAY — It has been five years, but they were bound to meet again.
Two of the top softball powers in northwest Ohio face off in a crucial game again as No. 6 Mohawk faces No. 3 Convoy Crestview in the Division IV regional final in Findlay.
The Knights (25-5) rolled to an 11-4 regional final victory against Ayersville (19-10) on Thursday, just like the Warriors (21-5) did one day early against Fremont St. Joseph, 12-4.
“With their history of being there, we kind of expected it,” Mohawk coach Jenny Weinandy said. “We think they’re a little bit down this year compared to the talent they’ve had in the past. It’s going to be a good game.”
Down by Crestview’s standards still is not all that low. The Knights have competed in the state tournament nine of the past 12 years, reaching the championship game four times, including last year. The Knights’ only state championship came in 2005 when Mohawk won their second of two championships in a three-year span, with the teams competing in different divisions.
The last time the two teams met was in 2007 on the same field in the same spot, a regional championship game that went the way of the Knights, 9-0. They also met the year before that in a regional semifinal game that Crestview also won, 4-1. The Warriors topped the Knights when it mattered most, though, taking a 6-1 state championship game victory in 2003.
However, Weinandy said she does think that history will play much of a factor in this game.
“I think the girls I have now don’t know the history with Convoy Crestview, so I’m probably more nervous than they are,” she said.
Crestview went 9-0 in Northwest Conference play to capture that league’s championship. It has been led by first-team All-NWC selections Taylor Hamrick, a senior outfielder, and Taylor Springer, a senior first baseman.
Three players, senior third baseman Dani Hicks, freshman pitcher Terra Crowle and senior shortstop Holly Genth, earned all-league second-team honors. Senior outfielder McKenzie Nofer and senior second baseman Maddie Etzler were honorable mention picks.
Nofer and Springer led the Knights’ assault against Ayersville with three hits each.
“I think they’re an aggressive hitting team,” Weinandy said. “They made some errors (against Ayersville). I think their strength is definitely their hitting. Their pitching is not overpowering.”
She said the Knights compare most closely to North Baltimore or New Riegel.
Mohawk is led both offensively and in the pitching circle by sophomore Kasey Adelsperger. Through May 12, she ws hitting .515 with five home runs and 26 RBIs. She sported a 1.25 ERA at that point and has given up just five total runs in four games since then.
But the Warriors also feature a deep lineup that bats .332 and has produced 201 runs for an average of 7.7 per game.
Junior shortstop Sarah Runion has hit .387 with 21 runs scored, while senior outfielder Taylor McClain ranks just behind her with a .385 average, three home runs, 23 RBIs and 24 runs scored, and senior first baseman Ashley Cooper falls in closely after that with a .373 average, 1 home run and 26 runs scored.
Weinandy said she could see the game being either a slugfest or a pitchers’ duel, with defense being the key.
“It might be one of those games Saturday where no one scores until the sixth or seventh inning,” she said. “I could see it going both ways. I could see both teams having good hitting days and I could see it becoming more of a defensive game where the team that that makes a mistake could be the turning point.”
With many of the Warriors having played in the state volleyball tournament, they should know what it is like to play in big games and Weinandy said she hopes her team plays to its identity.
“As long as we play our game, we usually step up to the other team’s level,” she said. “We’ve played against tougher teams and stuck with them and in the tournament, anyone can win.”
The first pitch is set for 12 p.m. Saturday at Findlay High School.
— Patrick Massara contributed to this story.
By LONNIE McMILLAN