Derrick Webb, Staff Writer
Southern Ohio Sports Authority is presented by OhioHealth.
PORTSMOUTH — By now, Notre Dame has had time to chew on Saturday’s season-ending loss.
The Titans, playing in a Division IV regional championship, fell to Strasburg-Franklin by a 13-2 final — ending their season just one step away from a trip to Akron.
It doesn’t sit well on the taste buds and it certainly wasn’t a sight for sore eyes. But that may be just the loss Notre Dame needed to get the monkey off its back next spring.
“It was just a bad day for Notre Dame,” Titans coach Shad Ford said about the regional final loss. “We didn’t execute and give credit to Strasburg-Franklin. They played well, made some plays when they needed to and had a little luck as well with balls finding some holes. We just couldn’t get going. But it was a good experience to play in a big atmosphere, being a young team with a regional final on the line. It will only benefit us going forward to play in that type of game.”
The Titans started just one senior on Saturday, being catcher Madison Brown.
Brown brought leadership to a roster that was filled to the brim with youth. All the while, Ford’s group grew up at an astronomical pace and, instead of taking their lumps, the Titans continued to find ways to win.
A starting group of three freshmen, three sophomores, two juniors and a senior managed to finish 19-2 overall and win conference, sectional and district championships. They ended the season as the state’s No. 7 ranked team in Division IV and with the program’s second-ever trip a regional final in their pockets.
“This season was a successful one,” Ford said. “If you would have said early in March that we would’ve been where we were, in a regional final, I would have taken that. They grew up fast this year and the young ones grew up faster than expected after losing quite a bit from last year’s team We had a lot of team accomplishments happen this season and we met our goals.”
While the program’s first-ever trip to a state semifinal may have to wait one more year, the promise of yet another deep tournament run is certainly there.
Both Gwen Sparks and Kyndall Ford will return to the circle, infielders Annie Dettwiller, Katie Strickland and Bree Hicks will return, and outfielders Libby Kelly, Kaylyn Darden and Maddie Entler will be back in the lineup.
Then, when you throw in a host of names that are more than capable of contributing at any moment alongside a host of talented newcomers, you get a formula that equates to winning.
Make no mistake about it; the Titans will be back. Back and better than ever with more history to be made.
“To be able to coach, it’s always been something I wanted to do and I couldn’t have asked for a better first year team of players that wanted to put the work in,” Ford said. “I’m definitely excited about next year. We’re only losing one starter and one other senior while gaining five to six really good softball players who will join all the underclassmen. I think we are definitely deeper coming back with our returners. We just have to keep working to get better.”