BUCYRUS — It’s on to Akron for the unranked Clear Fork High School softball team, which continues its relentless march toward a State championship — one upset at a time.
The Colts smothered Keystone, 2-0, in their Regional Championship matchup at Bucyrus High School on Saturday to earn a berth in the Division II State Semifinal game at Akron’s Firestone Stadium this week.
Clear Fork (28-4) was led by pitcher Rachel Wilson, who was slinging a vicious curveball. Wilson (15-1) threw a no-hitter in her last start. Saturday, she nearly matched the feat, one-hitting Keystone.
“I’m shaking right now; it’s just ridiculous,” said an emotional Wilson, who had five strikeouts and four walks. “I don’t know, it’s just real exciting. My mom told me, ‘You know, you just threw a one-hitter.’”
Clear Fork coach Jeff Gottfried said, “Well, (Rachel’s) a winner and she knows she’s got nine great teammates on defense behind her and whoever we’ve got in the dugout supporting her. She’s going to throw strikes. She’s not going to walk people and she is going to come right at you.”
They certainly did support Wilson’s efforts. The Colts’ airtight defense kept the Keystone batters from ever mounting a serious threat.
“We made plays today,” said Gottfried. “We made some good plays.”
Second baseman Becca Mottayaw, one of the real hearts of the Colts’ defense said, “It’s amazing. It isn’t going to sink in for an hour. It’s pretty cool just to say, ‘We are going to state.’”
“You know, it’s all in my (team’s) defense,” said Wilson. “I just have so much confidence in them. It all comes from them. They’re the best. I can’t do it without them.”
Wilson reached on a one-out single in the third. A steal and a single by Colts’ shortstop Katie Palmer, and suddenly, Wilson stood at third. Clear Fork third baseman Taylor Thomas drove Wilson home with a sacrifice fly to right to make it 1-0.
Palmer scored later that inning on a passed ball to make it 2-0.
“That’s textbook us,” said Wilson, who nearly had a second no-hitter in a row in the books before giving up a sixth inning single to Keystone first baseman Taylor Bell. “Once our leadoff gets on, we just move her over. We just do our jobs. We weren’t real nervous about it. That’s the thing we’ve been doing all year.”
With the way the Colts are playing, two runs were all they needed.
“I think the key to the ball game was getting the second run,” said Gottfried. “The first run and (Keystone) still thinks they are within striking distance. What (we did), littleball-wise, by getting that second run was huge and it made things a little tougher on (Keystone.) I’m very impressed by our whole team.”
Catcher Morgan Ruhl was also shaking following the win. She could smell victory in the air as the final outs were being recorded.
“We were excited,” said Ruhl. “We just pulled together. We knew we had it. We have so much confidence in each other. In that last inning, I said (to Wilson), ‘Let’s just do it.’ I have so much faith in Rachel and she has so much faith in me. When we get back there, our chemistry starts going. It’s like nobody can stop us.”
This is a Clear Fork team that is deep in leadership.
“We have five seniors this year,” said Wilson. “Every single one of them has stepped up. We’re just so excited to be here. We just want to do it because we’re the underdogs here. We’re not even ranked.”
“Our seniors step up when it’s needed and all know how to lead our team. Even if Rachel gives up a hit, we know the defense behind her is going to field it,” said Mottayaw. “If she walks someone, we know we need to pick it up and pick her back up.”
Two heavily-favored, state-ranked teams have faced the unheralded Colts in the last two games. Both have been sent home. Between both of them, they only have a hit in 15 innings.
If the Colts hold together, there may not be anyone out there to stop them. It’s the unique bond of faith between these Colts that may ultimately carry them to the state championship.
“We trust in each other,” explained Wilson. “We just know that each one of us is going to pull through. Now, no matter what happens, it’s just icing on the cake. We’re at state. This is what we wanted. Now we just got to relax and do what we’ve been doing.”
Clear Fork faces Tallmadge on Friday at 5:30 p.m. The Blue Devils beat Poland Seminary, 1-0, on Saturday to reach state.