Emily Poling preferred to look on the bright side of things Saturday afternoon.
The Ross High School sophomore third baseman watched visiting Harrison secure the Southwest Ohio Conference softball championship with a 7-3 victory, dropping the Rams to 17-4 overall and 10-2 in the SWOC.
“We completely blew out of the water what I expected from last year,” Poling said. “Being 17-4 and going from fourth in the SWOC to second, I’m pretty proud of us this year.”
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Harrison scored twice in the first inning and five times in the third, and that 7-0 deficit was just too steep for Ross in what was a winner-take-all showdown for the conference title.
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Poling had a double, a single and two walks, Haley Grau contributed two hits and two RBIs, and Kaitlyn Justice also drove in a run for the Rams, who stranded seven runners.
“We needed a few more timely hits,” Ross coach Pat Spurlock said. “Some days it happens, some days it doesn’t. The girls played hard. They stayed up the whole game. I’m super proud of them on that. We just did not get it done.”
Harrison (17-5, 11-1) handled the Rams twice this year by a combined 16-5 margin, and the Wildcats have won 10 of their last 11 games.
Saturday marked the program’s first SWOC championship since earning back-to-back titles in 2014 and 2015.
“Wow, SWOC champs. It’s an amazing feeling,” said center fielder Paige Bemerer, Harrison’s only senior who doubled twice and plated three runs. “I was a SWOC champ my freshman year and it was awesome, and we really worked together as a team and pulled this one out. There’s no better feeling than beating our rivals Ross.”
Wildcats coach Mike Schiering described winning the crown as “real satisfying.”
“Last year I thought we had a real shot, then we turned it on and got to the (Division I) district finals,” Schiering said. “I knew this group coming back with only one senior could be pretty special. We lost a few games early in the year that we shouldn’t have lost, but that happens.”
Harrison had nine hits against Ross ace Kenzie Meyer. Sami Wilkins delivered a triple, a single and two RBIs, Reagan Williamson singled twice, and Summer Jacobs drove in a run.
Schiering said his crew was supremely confident heading into Saturday’s affair.
“We were having so much fun on the bus,” Bemerer said. “We were so confident that we were just trying not to let our cockiness get to us, and we came out and showed them how we could do things.”
Lefty Emily Wisman pitched an eight-hitter for the Wildcats. There weren’t a lot of strikeouts in the game — Wisman notched two, Meyer three.
“Getting up early was a big key. That kind of takes the wind out of their sails when you do that,” Schiering said. “We’re a good hitting team. That’s our bread and butter. We’ve really had clutch hitting the last two weeks of the season.
“We played really good defense. That’s been a hallmark of our team this year too. And my pitcher has improved so much from the beginning of the year to now. She’s beaten every good team in our league.”
Poling felt the Rams were also loose before the game.
“We got here at 10 o’clock and had a little kumbaya moment where we all came together and talked,” she said. “We warmed up well and everything was good. Then we just didn’t play our best game. I guess it just wasn’t meant to be.”
Softening the blow a bit for Poling was the fact that she’s very familiar with the Harrison players.
“I used to play travel ball with literally every single person on this team,” Poling said. “So if we’ve got to lose, I’m glad it’s against this team. If we lost to Little Miami or somebody like that, I’d be a little upset. But Harrison deserved it. I’m proud of them.”
Ross, the No. 2 seed in the Division II Cincinnati 2 sectional, will begin postseason play at home against No. 9 Roger Bacon on Tuesday.
“The draw in Cincinnati is tougher, but I think we’re going to do well,” Spurlock said. “Hopefully we can get a nice little run going here. I think the girls have enough heart to make that happen.”
The Wildcats, seeded 10th in the D-I Cincinnati 5 sectional, will be at home against No. 28 Princeton on Monday.
WP — Emily Wisman (11-2); LP — Kenzie Meyer (17-3). Records: H 17-5, 11-1 SWOC; R 17-4, 10-2 SWOC