Over the weekend this year’s edition of the Dirt Dawgs ’02 competed in the u14 bracket of the USSSA State Tournament held in Maumee, Ohio’s Rolf Park. From June 17-19 the Dawgs rode some hot bats all the way to the tournament’s final game and nearly pulled off an epic comeback win for the title.
The Dawgs went 3-1 in four pool-play games which was good enough to qualify them for the tournament round, which is the weekend’s top four teams. In the semi-finals the Dawgs took on and took care of Ohio Lightning White by trouncing them in five innings, 9-0. The semi-final win then sent the Dawgs to the title game against Valley Force of Tuscarawas County.
The championship tilt was one for the ages. Valley Force jumped all over the Dawgs early and took what seemed like a commanding 7-2 lead after three innings. However, the Dawgs were carrying some pretty hot sticks to just go away quietly.
In the top of the fourth the Dawgs rallied for seven runs to regain the lead 9-7.
A lead that wouldn’t last long.
Valley Force came right back and scored three runs in the bottom of the fourth to steal the momentum right back and take back the lead 10-9.
Still, there was fight in the Dawgs.
Now trailing 11-10 in the top of the seventh inning, the Dawgs needed at least a run to keep the game alive. They did even better. The Dawgs got two runs to take a 12-11 lead into the bottom of the seventh.
In a game where someone in the stands usually says, ‘the last team to bat is going to win’, that exact thing happened.
In the bottom of the seventh Valley Force got two runs to win the game 13-12 and win the state championship in the 14u division.
“We had a great comeback after falling behind 7-1,” said Lisa Baker, the head coach of the Dawgs. “We chipped away and ended up going ahead, but gave it away and then just couldn’t seal the deal in the end. It was a back-and-forth game and that is what championship games are suppose to be, a battle.”
Pool play started on Friday night June 17 and in a sour way for the Dawgs. They dropped their first game of the weekend to SGS Magic White 11-5.
Baker said that the Dawgs are mostly 13-year-olds playing in a 14-year-old division so they are a bit raw. Baker also said that because of that youth she was proud to see her young team bounce back after an opening loss and win all three games on Saturday to get a chance at the ‘ship.
“When you are on the younger side of your age bracket, it is always a challenge,” Baker said. “The game now is so much quicker than it was in 12u. It’s taken our girls a little awhile to catch up, so it was nice to that our girls rebounded. It was a great comeback because I think we were all thinking that we were going to have a long row to hoe after that first game, but we really put it together.”
On Saturday the Dawgs ripped off three straight wins as the comeback started with a 6-1 win over Lady Irish Green. Against Lady Irish Green, Maddie Woods (West Holmes) went the distance allowing one earned run and six hits while striking out three.
Up next, the Dawgs had no absolutely no problem with Ohio Xtreme Xplosion who they sent packing with a 13-1 win. In the final pool game on Saturday night, the Dawgs needed a win over Intruders to reach the semi-finals on Sunday and they got it in a big way. The Dawgs ripped 13 hits against Inruders and smoked them 10-0 in four innings. The win over Intruders included a massive six-run second inning that left no doubt in the game.
Baker credited the hot bats of the Dawgs as the key ingredient to the formula of success on Saturday.
“Or bats were hot this weekend, but we also did a very good job of executing at the plate,” Baker said. “We’ve been emphasizing the small-ball game with girls. The goal is on, over and in. In the end our girls really did well with that. It wasn’t just a few girls scattering hits, it was everyone.”
The scorching bats continued to blaze against Ohio Lightning in the semi-final when the Dawgs clinched a berth in the finals with a conviction 9-0 win behind the arm of Sienna Apel. Apel tossed a two-hit gem against Ohio Lightning to send her team to the title game.
The Dawgs would then drop the title game, but their summer doesn’t end here. They will now focus their attention to nationals.
In the fall the Dawgs qualified for nationals at the Whitehall tournament in Columbus. That means they will be making their third trip to the USSSA Nationals that will take place the third weekend in July in Ocean City, Maryland.
If they can keep the bats rolling, the Dawgs will be just as competitive come nationals.
The Dirt Dawgs are made up of players from West Holmes, Wooster, Smithville, Berea, Triway, Hiland, Mt. Vernon and Bellefontaine.
As far as the Lady Knights on the team, this is how they fared;
Jasmine Knapp on the weekend went 9-for-15 from the dish including a double, 7 RBI, four runs scored, HBP, and one sacrifice.
Morgan Allen drove in three runs for the Dawgs while batting 5-for-11 during the state tournament. Allen also scored four runs and had a triple and 3 RBI on the weekend.
Maddie Woods did a little bit of both, offense and pitching. At the plate Woods went 9-for-21, cranked out five doubles, scored eight runs and drove in seven. In the circle, Woods also went 1-0 in 5 1/3 inning-pitched, allowing six hits, four runs and she whiffed nine batters.
“These girls have contributed in a vast amount areas on this team,” said the Dawgs’ head coach Lisa Baker about the West Holmes products. “What’s unique about these three girls is they have stayed together throughout the course of this whole program. Their bats were on fire this weekend. Jasmine went 4-for-4 in the title game and Morgan and Maddie each drove in runs the whole tournament.”