During the Division III district tournament and in its regional semifinal, the Ready High School softball team proved it could slug its way to success.
The Silver Knights showed they also could win with pitching and defense when they rallied June 2 for a 2-1 victory in eight innings over Batavia Clermont Northeastern in a regional final at Wright State.
Those contrasting performances helped Ready earn its first state tournament appearance since 2009.
The Silver Knights played Columbia Station Columbia in a state semifinal June 7 at Firestone Stadium in Akron, with the winner playing Pemberville Eastwood or Bloom-Carroll for the championship June 8 at the same site.
"I was talking to people before the game (against Clermont Northeastern) and everybody was saying, 'It's going to be a pitchers' duel,'" coach Jen Goff said. "This was the toughest game we've played in the tournament so far, but we've played in six one-run ballgames this year (before the state tournament). We finally hit .500 on the season and we're a (district) 16 seed going to the state final four."
Columbia was 28-4 and Ready was 15-15 entering their matchup.
Ready's win in the regional final, which was rescheduled from June 1, gave it a .500 record for the first time this season and was its seventh consecutive victory.
Bloom-Carroll was ranked first, Columbia was fourth and Eastwood was sixth in the final state poll.
While Columbia was making its first trip to the state tournament, Ready won the 1995 state title, was runner-up the next year and lost in a state semifinal in 2009.
Against Clermont Northeastern, the Silver Knights fell behind 1-0 in the top of the eighth but bounced back in the bottom of the inning with a game-winning, two-run double to deep left field by senior Sammy Hawkins (2B). Sophomore Molli Abbruzzese (RF) walked to open the inning and junior Haylee Patel (CF) reached on an error to set up the comeback.
Junior pitcher Julia Hall struck out 14 after striking out nine in five innings in a 14-3 win over Brookville in a regional semifinal May 29 at Wright State.
"I told (Goff) before the (regional final) that I was feeling it," Hall said. "I liked it being postponed for a day because I got another day off. We scare ourselves so bad, but we came back and Sammy had a great clutch hit."
During the second inning against Brookville, Ready scored eight times as Hall had a two-run double, Hawkins had an RBI hit and sophomore Hailey Bryan (LF) added an RBI triple.
"We've been hitting all year, but we just weren't finding the gaps," Goff said. "Julia's just come alive (in the circle). One thing we've noticed is that when teams hit the ball off of her, she just rears back and throws. ... She has ice cold water running through her veins."
Slone competes in state track meet
Senior Taron Slone was expected to contend for Division II state championships in the boys 100 meters and 200 even before the postseason began.
What happened in the district and regional meets likely enhanced his chances in both events.
In the regional meet May 30 and June 1 at Lexington, Slone won the 100 in 10.8 seconds and set a regional record by winning the 200 in 21.49, advancing to the state meet June 7 and 8 at Ohio State.
Senior Lamar Hargrove from Cincinnati North College Hill returned to defend his title in the 100 after running 11.42 to earn a runner-up finish in the Dayton regional, but he wasn't able to defend his championship in the 200 after getting disqualified during the regional preliminary May 30.
Also not back at state after getting injured at district May 25 was Independence senior Dominic Ward. His teammate, senior Vincent Rambo, was another athlete who did not return to state.
Last season at state, Hargrove was first in the 100 (10.98), followed by 2012 graduate Jordan Piergallini of Rayland Buckeye Local (11.04), Slone (11.05), Rambo (11.24) and Ward (11.26).
In the 200 a year ago, Hargrove was first (21.51) and Slone placed second (21.79). The next two finishers were 2012 graduates, and Ward tied Piergallini for fifth (22.13).
"I was heartbroken for (Hargrove and Ward) because it was us three who were (near) the top of podium in those events," Slone said. "In the 200, I wanted to face Lamar because it was my time to get back at him. I actually text and talk to him all the time. He took second in the 100 (in the Dayton regional), but the 200 was his main event. The 200 is also my favorite and I'd say it's my best."
Slone's performance at regional helped Ready tie Bellevue and Defiance for 10th (20) behind champion Eastwood (55) as 44 teams scored.
Also competing at regional but failing to move on for the boys team were senior Daniel Perry in the 800 (13th, 2:03.44) and sophomore Codi Platter in the 1,600 (10th, 4:50.2).
Representing the girls team was senior Carly Culbertson, who was 14th in the 100 (13.02) and 13th in the 200 (27.12). Ready did not score.