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Tallmadge softball wins first state title since 1998 with 9-0 win over Canfield

The Blue Devils scored all nine runs over a two-inning span to win the state title
Tallmadge softball celebration Jeff Harwell

AKRON, Ohio – It took Tallmadge’s offense a couple of innings to get going on Saturday in the OHSAA Division II state championship game, but once they did, the floodgates opened and the Blue Devils were hoisting their first state championship trophy since 1997.

The Blue Devils broke out the bats for five runs in the fourth inning and four more in the fifth inning and rode that to a 9-0 win over Canfield at Firestone Stadium.

“I think we use the first like our first time through the batting order to really help like time up and we talk to each other a lot,” senior outfielder Mia Zappola said. “So then the second time around, we were really just like dominant.”

Jocelyn Caffelle led off the fourth inning with a single and it looked like that was all Tallmadge would get, as Canfield pitcher Malena Toth retired the next two batters on a bunt and groundout with Gabby Harp, who was running for Caffelle, advancing to third with two outs.

But Ashlyn Severns drew a walk and Emma Garbinsky got an infield single up the middle to score Harp and then Mia Zappola drove in Severns with a single to make it 2-0.

And then Sydney Becks who delivered the biggest blow hitting out of the nine hole.

She hit a ball down the left field line and just kept running with her coaches waving her on. She ended up with a three-run inside-the -park home run that made it 5-0.

“I was rounding first, and I see coach telling me go to and then once I turned and I saw that all of (the outfielders) were just running to the corner I was like, I gotta keep going,” Becks said. “But I look at (head coach Brittany Lightel coaching at third) and (She is) telling me go.”

Lightel was waving her arms around madly, trying to get Becks to turn at third and make the sprint home.

“As soon as she stepped on second and they're still running after the ball, I knew I was sending her home with her speed,” Lightel said. “I wasn't going to stop her.”

Tallmadge pitcher Riley Jackson responded by going out in the bottom of the fourth and getting all three outs by throwing just eight pitches. She finished the game allowing just two hits.

“It's a lot easier when we have runs and we're up,” Jackson said. “It just makes me feel like it takes the pressure off.”

Tallmadge came back into the dugout ready to hit once again.

Garbinsky drove in a run with a double, Zappola knocked one in with a single and Becks did the same and Zappola scored on a throwing error to make it 9-0.

Lightel, who played at Tallmadge and made it to the state semifinals as a player, had joked after their semifinal win on Thursday that she was jealous of her players. On Saturday, she was holding back tears of joy.

“I just I'm so happy for them,” Lightel said. “I feel like I have nothing to do with it. I want them to soak it all in and I just kept reminding them like it's just another softball game. You're here to win a state championship but I'm so happy for them.

“I didn't get one as a player. So I'll take one as a coach.”

This makes the eighth title is school history for the Blue Devils, putting them in a tie for second most in state history. The head coach knows what this title means for her players.

“Tallmadge softball has just always been a legacy,” Leightel said. “And that's part of the reason why I feel like I get emotional and I'm like so excited for them to be a part of that. We still have people from that 1981 team up in the stands and they will be a part of that like going forward like forever. Like they will never ever forget this.”