Coach Steve Smith could only shake his head after his Johnstown-Monroe High School softball team was overmatched by Bloom-Carroll pitcher Taran Alvelo.
The junior tossed a no-hitter with 17 strikeouts and no walks against the sixth-seeded Johnnies as the top-ranked and top-seeded Bulldogs won 7-0 on May 24 in a Division III district final at Pickerington Central.
"Sometimes, the bear gets you," said Smith, whose team finished 15-12 overall. "We knew coming in that (Alvelo) was as good as it gets and we hoped to catch her on an 'off' day and that we would be on an 'on' day. That didn't happen."
Johnstown had its only baserunner with one out in the fourth inning when freshman outfielder Abby Schaffer bunted down the first-base line and Alvelo made an errant throw to first. Alvelo stayed on the ground for about 10 minutes following the play with an injured knee. She then got sophomore catcher Erin McConnell to ground out to first and struck out sophomore pitcher-shortstop Maddi Lusk to end the inning.
The Bulldogs scored four times in the first and twice in the second to set the tone.
Freshman Sydney Stefanick relieved Lusk in the third and finished with seven strikeouts and two walks.
"The girls set a goal of reaching a district final, and they did that," Smith said. "Any time you reach a goal, it's a good thing. I just wish we could have gone further (in the postseason)."
The Johnnies had a first-round bye before defeating 20th-seeded Amanda-Clear-creek 11-3 on May 16 and eighth-seeded Liberty Union 3-1 on May 19 in a district semifinal to set up their first district final appearance since 2009.
The Johnnies finished sixth (8-10) in the LCL behind Licking Valley (17-1), Granville (16-2), Lakewood (15-3), Heath (10-8) and Northridge (9-9) and ahead of Licking Heights (5-13), Watkins Memorial (4-14), Newark Catholic (3-15) and Utica (3-15).
Lusk was second-team all-district and first-team all-league.
She was 7-5 with a 2.92 ERA in 86 1/3 innings with 77 strikeouts and batted .370 with one home run, 27 runs and 28 RBI.
Stefanick (first-team all-league) was 8-4 with a 2.15 ERA in 84 2/3 innings with 112 strikeouts. She also played shortstop and hit .427 with one home run, seven RBI and 22 runs.
Senior outfielder Natalie Carpenter (second-team all-league) batted .247 with three homers, 17 RBI and 25 runs and McConnell (second-team all-league) batted .374 with three homers, 19 RBI and 25 runs.
Freshman third baseman Jordan Dingess (second-team all-league) batted .396 with three homers, 33 RBI and 18 runs. Schaffer (honorable mention all-league) hit .296 with 11 runs and four RBI.
Seniors for the Johnnies were Ashley Bush (2B), Carpenter, Hallie Grinstead (OF) and Sierra Reynard (OF).
"(The seniors) were there for us through the ups and downs and were there when we needed them," said Smith, who completed his third season. "When we went through a tough stretch before the postseason, they were there to get us back on track."
Also expected to return are junior Courtney Fuller (OF), sophomore Karaline Boso (OF/INF) and freshmen Cassidy Gerhart (OF/INF), Madi Layman (OF/INF), Marilyn Piper (OF/INF), Brianna Potter (OF) and Mikala Smith (P/1B).
Anna Torres, a junior first baseman, is expected to move to Virginia with her family, according to Smith.
Vikings expect to return strong nucleus
The Northridge baseball team finished 10-15 overall after losing to seventh-seeded Marion Pleasant 3-2 in eight innings May 16 in the second round of the Division III district tournament.
The 11th-seeded Vikings had a first-round bye.
Northridge finished seventh (7-11) in the LCL behind Licking Valley (14-4), Newark Catholic (13-5), Watkins Memorial (13-5), Lakewood (10-8), Heath (9-9) and Johnstown (8-10) and ahead of Granville (6-12), Licking Heights (5-13) and Utica (5-13).
The Vikings had three seniors in Jakob Cramer (2B), Nic Walker (OF) and Morgan Wright (P).
Northridge expects to return a strong junior class in Trent Baughman (3B/P/C), Ethan Chalfant (3B), Tyler Freese (3B), Andrew Hollis (SS/P/C), Anthony Hollis (1B/P) Nick McConnell (P), Daniel McNamara (OF), Clay Nicks (1B/OF/P), Dustin Shenberger (2B/P), Gavin Shank (OF), Matt Simmons (C/P), Tate VanFossen (1B/2B), Brad Wilson (P/SS) and Greg Wilson (OF/SS/P).
Also expected to return are sophomores Nathan Hiser (OF/P) and Peyton Miller (OF/P) and freshman Drew Cella (2B).