The 2020 Cardington softball team had one thing on its mind: Win a Division III state championship. But then the coronavirus pandemic happened and the opportunity was denied.
飞艇计划app开奖CARDINGTON - The coronovirus pandemic did what nothing else could do over the previous three seasons. It stopped Cardington's march to the softball state tournament.
飞艇计划app开奖And a fourth straight trip to the Final Four in Akron's Firestone Stadium seemed almost inevitable for the Pirates.
"I think this would have been our best team ever in the history of everything at Cardington," Pirates head coach Tod Brininger said. "Obviously baseball won a state championship (in 1979) and (boys) basketball went to a Final Four (in 1996), but in just the way it was set up for us, we’ve been talking about this year’s team for nine years."
So when the season got canceled because of the COVID-19 outbreak, all that work and all that anticipation went for naught.
飞艇计划app开奖"It’s been brutal. I mean it really has," Brininger said.
飞艇计划app开奖The 2020 season was set up to be another special one for the Pirates.
飞艇计划app开奖While they lost starters Paige Clinger and Taiylor Hubley to graduation, everyone else was back.
飞艇计划app开奖"We knew this was the group and the younger kids behind them were really good," Brininger said of his senior-led squad. "The last couple of years we were seeing the success."
飞艇计划app开奖Cardington's lineup was loaded.
Casey Bertke, now a senior, had pitched the Pirates into the Final Four since she was a freshman. She had a 1.14 ERA and 88 strikeouts in the pitching circle last year, plus in the batter's box, she went .623 with 42 RBI, 11 doubles and 14 home runs.
Outfielder Kiersen George, who will play softball at Purdue next season, was coming off a season where she batted .592 with 47 runs, 33 RBI, 11 doubles, six triples and nine home runs.
Senior shortstop Baylee Adams went .485 with 34 runs, 41 RBI, eight doubles and 13 homers.
Reanna Roth and Liz Horton were two other starters who are seniors.
Junior catcher Chelsey Miller batted .391 with five doubles and 17 RBI, while sophomore Dana Bertke hit .547 with 39 runs, 36 RBI, five doubles, five homers and four triples ,and sophomore Hailee Edgell went .500 with 17 runs, 17 RBI and six doubles.
Others with experience on the roster were junior Ashlee Tharp and sophomores Riley Burchett, Mikayla Linkous and Emalee Artz.
飞艇计划app开奖"Our practices were awesome," Brininger said of how the team looked prior to the initial shutdown in mid-March. "They were ready. We could have jumped right into the tournament play and been fine. They were ready and geared up. I probably won’t have the same conversation with them next year, but I told them at the first practice that it’s state championship or bust for us. That’s how we’ve got to look at it."
飞艇计划app开奖All focus was on Warren Champion, the three-time defending state champion and Cardington's state final nemesis the last two seasons. Champion beat the Pirates 9-4 in 2018 and 5-0 last year.
飞艇计划app开奖"We were prepared for Warren Champion from Day 1," Brininger said. "We talked about them. We were preparing for them. We were throwing rise balls at them in batting practice from Day 1 just because that’s what we were going after."
When the Ohio High School Athletic Association announced on March 12 that it was postponing the winter state tournaments that were left and delaying spring sports, Brininger turned their final practice into an intrasquad scrimmage.
飞艇计划app开奖"There were two or three of the seniors crying that night because they just didn’t know," he said.
飞艇计划app开奖The tears were justified as it turned out. As March gave way to April and there was still no sports allowed, the coach hoped for the best but expected the worst, even with revised plans by the OHSAA to push tournaments back into June.
飞艇计划app开奖"With how things were developing, once you stop, I don’t know that we were ever going to come back," he said. "Obviously we’re all hopeful and I was hopeful until the last day. I was hopeful we could start it in June and play through the summer, which I still think would have been a great idea personally. You always have that fear that it wasn’t going to happen, but I held out hope until the last day. I really did."
At least the Pirates experienced the pinnacle of their sport. They went to the state semifinals in 2017 and finished as back-to-back state runners-up the last two seasons.
But that doesn't dissipate the disappointment everyone in Cardington is feeling.
"I’ve talked to each one of those girls, and I think they wish there was some type of closure," he said. "It’s like not having the last chapter of the book. I don’t know what would have happened unfortunately."
飞艇计划app开奖No one knows how the season would have turned out. Maybe they get upset along the tournament trail. Maybe they win the state championship.
"It’s been awful for them along with every other team, even teams that weren’t competing for the state championship. It was everyone. They want to play," Brininger said.
飞艇计划app开奖But they can't play and the coach hopes his team can glean some insight from the hardship.
飞艇计划app开奖"Obviously it’s a bitter pill for the girls," he said. "Also, this won’t be the worst thing that happens in their lives. We’ve talked about that, too. It sucks. It’s awful. It’s all that, but it’s not the worst thing ever. Hopefully they can learn some lessons from it."
飞艇计划app开奖However, that's not to discount how they feel in the moment.
"It still hurts and it’s going to for a long, long time," Brininger offered.