(Posted June 8, 2022)
By Kristy Zurbrick, Madison Editor
Jonathan Alder High School’s softball program has made a habit of making it to state, qualifying five times in the last nine years and winning a state title in 2019. This year, the Pioneers came up just short of adding another state victory to their long list of achievements, finishing the season as Div. II state runners-up on June 4 at Firestone Stadium in Akron.
“The word I can best use for this team is scrappy. They just fight,” said Head Coach Dave McGrew. “We might not have a lineup of .500 hitters top to bottom, but we have girls who stepped up at certain times and got things done. It was pretty cool to see.”
Even before they made their run at the state title, the team racked up a 15-0 record in the Kenton Trail division of the Central Buckeye Conference and won the conference title.
Entering post-season play, they encountered a familiar opponent, Lakewood, to whom they lost by one point at district finals last year. They avenged that loss with a one-point win of their own to qualify for regionals. There, they faced another tough conference rival in Springfield Shawnee. The Pioneers took the win, then beat Kenton Ridge to win regionals and advance to state.
“We played Oak Harbor in the state semi-finals. It was their first time making it to state. Marlee (Jacobs) pitched a gem of a game for us,” McGrew said. “Firestone Stadium in Akron is an awesome venue; it holds 4,000 to 5,000 fans. That kind of atmosphere is one that can swallow up some kids. I think Oak Harbor was dealing with that a little bit.”
With their 5-0 semi-finals win, the Pioneers moved on to the finals. Their opponent: state returner, Wooster Triway, whose pitcher, Carter Wachtel, McGrew considers to be one of the best in the state.
“She held us at bay. We only got two hits off her,” he said.
Jonathan Alder scored at the top of the fifth inning to bring the tally to 1-1, but Triway answered back with a run at the top of the sixth. That’s where the scoring stopped, leaving Triway the state champs with a final score of 2-1.
McGrew can’t say enough about the work his players put into the season. He praised the senior class, mentioning Jacobs for her prowess on the mound, Danielle Robbins for leading the team at the plate and setting the school’s single season record for stolen bases with 37, and Jaden Phelps for battling through injury to come up with two big hits in the state semi-finals and the team’s only run in the finals. He also mentioned sophomore Evan Platfoot, a bright spot at shortstop, who notched three hits in the state semis.
Having served as the Pioneers’ head coach for 11 years, McGrew has been at the helm for all of the program’s trips to state over the last decade.
“It never gets old,” he said. “One of the great things with us is you’d think it was our first time every time we go. We don’t take anything for granted.”
That goes for the coaching staff as much as the players.
“They love rolling up their sleeves. Everybody’s passionate about it,” he said.
About next year, he added, “We’ve got a lot of work to do. It’s going to be fun to see what we can do.”