Senior Morgan Cox found motivation from the sign hanging up in the batting cage at Olentangy.
The sign is for the last time the Olentangy softball team captured an OCC championship – which was 2013.
“Once I got here – all we wanted to do was win,” she said. “It wasn’t really like that at my old school (Hudson). I really picked up on that energy and I was like, ‘I want that title.’ We have that sign in our hitting cage and I thought that needs to be us in 2018.”
That motivation turned into a reality when she put Olentangy ahead to stay on a looping liner that found grass in short right field, driving in Brooke Wells with the go-ahead run in the 10th inning.
Olentangy tacked on an insurance run on an Emily Bullock fielder’s choice and Sophie Low set the side down in order in the bottom half to nail down a 5-3 victory at rival Olentangy Liberty Wednesday in Powell.
The win wraps up a share of the OCC-Buckeye championship – adding another sign that may one day serve as motivation for someone else.
Morgan put it the same way as her sister Payton did after the win over Westerville Central Apr. 26.
“Me and my sister were trained to just see ball, hit ball,” Morgan said. “We don’t let anything that happened in the game before or anything that’s going to happen later affect us. We just see ball, hit ball.”
Olentangy (13-9, 7-1) holds a two-game lead over Liberty and Westerville Central with two games left to play.
“It’s awesome,” Olentangy coach Alan Tharp said. “The kids deserve it – they’ve worked hard all year.”
Liberty had come in under the radar after a 1-7 start to the season. But all of those games were outside of league play.
The Patriots responded with a four-game winning streak and nine of their last 12 overall coming into Thursday’s game.
Power has been a major reason for their success with first baseman Arica Flaugher clubbing eight home runs for the season.
Thursday, it was Dani Schoenly and Lillee LaRosa that played long ball.
“The long ball has helped us recently,” Liberty coach Cari DeAngelis said. “You get a couple of kids on and somebody knocks one over. It’s kids seeing the ball and hitting their pitch, and that’s a credit to our hitters.”
Schoenly sent a towering drive over the left-center field wall to lead off the first to tie the game 1-1.
LaRosa sent a deep drive over the wall in left to give the Patriots a 3-1 lead in the sixth.
Morgan Cox sent a liner to the left-center gap and reached on an error to start the seventh. Payton Cox was intentionally walked for the fifth of six times in the game.
“(Morgan is) our heart and soul,” Tharp said. “(People) see how she dives after balls (in the field) – they get us fired up.”
Bullock laid down a bunt that was fielded and thrown into right field allowing both Cox sisters to score to tie the game 3-3 – sending it to extras.
Low, meanwhile, gave up the two homers. She retired 15 of 17 batters after the first home run and 14 of the final 16 batters she faced.
“Sophie threw (153) pitches,” Tharp said. “It’s hard when a hitter sees you six times and they know what you got. And it’s our second game (against Liberty).”
All told – she allowed three runs (all earned) on four hits and four walks and struck out 12 over 10 innings.
“She pitched well,” Liberty coach Cari DeAngelis said. “Our hitters didn’t adjust as well as they did last time (we played them). I think we were trying to push a little too hard at the plate at times.”
Liberty’s Katelyn Wilhelm was almost as good. She went the distance and allowed five runs (one earned) on eight hits and nine walks (including six intentional) and struck out nine.
“I trust my pitching coach and (Payton Cox) hit two against us when we faced them (last),” DeAngelis said. “So, we weren’t going to let her beat us. We were going to make somebody else do it. Really – it worked out for us. We just didn’t make the plays at the very end.”
Schoenly had two hits and a walk in her five plate appearances and scored two runs to lead the Patriots (10-11, 6-3).
“Olentangy is a good team,” DeAngelis said. “We knew it was going to be a fight and we gave them a fight. Unfortunately – we just didn’t come out on the right side of it. It’s hard, but it is what it is sometimes.”
Olentangy has a trip to Westerville Central today at 5:15 p.m. A win there or win at Westerville North May 10 ensures an outright title.
Liberty wraps up league play at Westerville South today at 5:15 p.m.
Follow Michael Rich on Twitter @mrichnotwealthy or contact him at [email protected]