Eye on the prize: South Range seeks first softball state title

Sports

BEAVER TOWNSHIP, Ohio (WKBN) – The dream season for the South Range softball team is entering its final stage.

The Raiders are now just two wins away from securing the program’s first state title.

Wet field conditions forced their state semifinal matchup with Johnstown to be postponed until Saturday.

“We’re all pretty nervous,” said senior Bree Kohler. “We wish we were playing tomorrow, but we’re pretty excited to play Saturday.”

The schedule change comes with consequences. Kohler and senior Jillian Strecansky will miss their graduation ceremony, with their focus firmly fixed on winning a state crown in Akron this weekend.

“It’s a really hard decision because I’m valedictorian, and I’m not gonna be able to be there and give my speech,” Strecansky said. “But, I decided that it would be a lot better to be with my team all morning and be there for the sendoff and the bus ride. All that stuff that you cannot relive.”

The Raiders are making just their second trip to the state final four all-time, having previously been there five years ago, but losing in the championship game.

“Especially the fact that Wheelersburg is also in the final four. That’s who we lost to in 2016. So, of course, we’re hoping to win and we hope that Wheelersburg also wins so that we can get some revenge on them this year,” said head coach Jeff DeRose.

A South Range win on Saturday would tie the program record for wins in a season with 30. It would likewise earn the Raiders a trip to the state championship game.

“It would mean a lot to bring it home to everybody,” Kohler said. “Not only for the community, but for the coaches and team. I feel like it would mean a lot to everybody.”

“It would mean so much to us,” Strecansky admitted. “As little kids, I never thought that this could be a possibility and, to be this close to, it’s just crazy.”

South Range and Johnstown will play the Division III State Semifinals on Saturday at 12:30 p.m. at Akron Firestone Stadium.

“We’re really excited about this opportunity,” DeRose added. “We had three really tough games our last three games. We’re playing on a high right now. So, we’re good with a close game. I think we can win a close game. We’re riding high on emotion right now. We’re excited.”

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