Hillsdale entered Saturday’s Division IV regional championship game vs. Monroeville as the defending state champion. The program has seven state titles in school history.
Monroeville, on the other hand, was playing in its first regional title game after winning the program’s first-ever district title last week.
The moment became too much for the Eagles, as Hillsdale had a three-run first inning and rolled to a 5-0 win at Akron's Firestone Stadium.
"The moment was a little too big for us," Monroeville coach Abe Helmstetter said. "We had a couple costly errors in the first inning that set the tone of the game. We could never get out of it."
Monroeville finished its season at 23-5 with its best tournament finish in program history.
"I am frustrated," Helmstetter said. "That is where I am. I am frustrated because I can deal with losing, but it is tough for me when you beat yourself."
The Falcons (20-6) wasted little time getting to Eagles' pitcher Carley Helmstetter. Josie Rowland laid down a bunt single before stealing second base. After a groundout, Emily Crossen reached on an error and then also stole second. Helmstetter bounced back with a strikeout before hitting Hillsdale pitcher Olivia Betson.
Helmstetter nearly escaped the inning without damage as she jammed Emma Fowler, but the ball fell just inches in front of Jessica Hayes' glove at third base. Payton Fickes followed with a two-run single and Hillsdale was quickly in control.
"No runs score there," said coach Helmstetter of the near-catch by Hayes. "I am not going to put that on Jessica. It is a total different ballgame though. You win as a team and you lose as a team."
Helmstetter recovered from there, retiring 11 of the next 12 batters before running into issues in the fifth inning. She walked Sophia Goon, who advanced to second when Crossen flied out. Molly Moffet followed with a single.
Moffet was aggressive and took second when Goon rounded third, drawing a throw home. With two runners in scoring position, Helmstetter threw back-to-back wild pitches to score both runs.
"We come into this stadium and our girls are pumped," Hillsdale coach Hannah Fulk said. "They are excited to play when they come to this field. They want to win so badly that they do not let the pressure get to them."
Monroeville had chances against Betson throughout the game. In the first inning, Payton Scheid and Hayes smacked singles, but Betson bounced back with a flyout and a popout to end the threat.
A ball hit by Alex Carper in the third inning was thrown errantly to first base. The speedy leadoff hitter for the Eagles scrambled all the way to third, but Betson struck out Scheid and induced a groundout from Hayes to end the threat.
In the fifth inning, Adelynn Kradlak reached on an error after she laid down a bunt. She moved to second on a wild pitch and to third when Lydia Landoll laid down a sacrifice bunt, but again, Betson recovered to get a groundout and strikeout to keep Monroeville scoreless.
The Falcons' defense helped out Betson in the sixth inning. Scheid opened the inning with a single, but Hayes hit into a double play. Betson then hit Helmstetter and threw a pair of wild pitches to put another runner on third. Betson struck out Skiler Hershiser and retired the side in order in the seventh inning for the win.
"I am not surprised by the lack of timely hits," coach Helmstetter said. "When you make it bigger than just a softball game, you let your mind do different things. You have to keep it simple as a softball game and have fun. That is where Hillsdale definitely had the edge on us."
Betson allowed just the three hits. She did not walk a batter and struck out six.
"She pitched a great game today," Fulk said. "She came out and tried to throw first pitches strikes and that is what she did. The heat started getting to her, but she pushed through."
Helmstetter gave up just five hits while walking two. The first team all-Ohio senior struck out three to bring an end to her storied career for Monroeville.
"I am very proud of my girls," coach Helmstetter said. "They have done so much this year. They set so many program standards."
Monroeville 000 000 0 — 0 3 1
Hillsdale 300 020 x — 5 5 2
WP: Benson. LP: Helmstetter.