Wheelersburg Pirates
Derrick Webb

Derrick Webb

Derrick is SOSA's chief content coordinator and has worked for the Chillicothe Gazette, the Portsmouth Daily Times and Eleven Warriors. He's a 13-time award-winning journalist, a self-proclaimed baseball purist, a suffering Bengals fan and has never met a stranger.

STATE CHAMPS: Pirates top Tuslaw, sail to program’s second state title

The Pirates win their second state championship and first since 2016.

Derrick Webb, Staff Writer

Southern Ohio Sports Authority is presented by OhioHealth.

AKRON — All week long, Wheelersburg has relied on one word when asked to describe what it would mean to bring a state championship back home.

Wheelersburg’s seniors raise the Division III state championship trophy after Saturday’s 5-2 win in Akron.
CREDIT: Derrick Webb/SOSA

“Everything. It would mean everything.”

Everything to the Pirates’ dugout. Everything to their coaching staff. Everything to the community.

On Saturday, that dream became a reality. The Division III state championship trophy is officially heading south and will reside in Wheelersburg for the second time since 2016.

Mission accomplished.

The Pirates earned their latest treasure find with a 5-2 win over Massillon Tuslaw in the Division III state final at Akron’s Firestone Stadium — playing in their fourth-ever state title game, all coming since 2004.

“Just tremendous. I’m just so proud of them. This whole season, they have played with pressure, a target and through social media stuff,” Wheelersburg coach Teresa Ruby said. “We’ve got three seniors and a lot of sophomores, juniors and freshmen. It’s a maturity that we’ve developed throughout the season. I just couldn’t be more proud of them.”

The Pirates (27-1) wasted exactly zero time gracing the scoreboard. 

Freshman Catie Boggs was hit by a pitch in the game’s first at-bat, which was followed by a single from Haley Myers. Macee Eaton was then intentionally walked to load the bases.

That sequence gave Andi Jo Howard the chance to help her own cause. The sophomore laced a two-run single into the outfield green to score both Boggs and Myers, making it 2-0. 

Then, in the third, Myers began the inning with her second hit of the night. Eaton was intentionally walked — again — and Howard was hit by a pitch. That gave Sydney Skiver the opportunity to log an RBI single, scoring Myers and making it 3-0.

Eaton would later score on a sacrifice fly off Rileigh Lang’s bat, putting Wheelersburg ahead 4-0 early.

That’s where the count would stand until the bottom of the fifth inning when Tuslaw (22-6) plated two runs, cutting the deficit to 4-2. The pair came on a suicide squeeze and a sacrifice fly, via Brandie Cooper and Macaira Fox.

That chase Howard from the circle, giving way for freshman Kaylynn Carter to enter the contest. She did so with a runner on and no outs in the sixth inning — a big spot for a freshman and one she handled quite nicely.

She didn’t allow a hit throughout the next two innings, struck out two and hushed any whispers of a comeback.

“Early on in the tournament, I had an injury and went, pretty much throughout the tournament, without going in,” Carter said. “So I’ve been preparing for today. Even if I wasn’t going in, I wanted to give myself the best shot [to play well]. As soon as I got called out, I knew I had prepared correctly. I had full confidence in myself. Going out there and being able to perform, it felt really great.”

From the sideline, Howard was Carter’s biggest fan.

“Andi Jo and I are really close. We know that we work well together. We complete each other [in the circle]. She knows that if she struggles, I have her back and vice versa,” Carter said. “She came up to me and said to be ready. She knew how the game was going and wanted to make sure I was ready.”

The game’s final run came on a solo home run from Macee Eaton in the top of the seventh inning, a ball that found its way over the center field fence.

“It was great. I screwed up the inning before [during her first at-bat], and I was glad to get that run back,” Eaton said. “I just wanted to help my team out. I didn’t know if it was going to go over or not so I was sprinting. But I’m happy it went over.”

Myers was 2-for-4 with two runs scored, Skiver finished 2-for-3 with an RBI, Howard was 2-for-2 with two RBIs, and Eaton went 1-for-2 with two intentional walks, a home run and an RBI.

Howard picked up the win, tossing five innings and surrendering one earned run on five hits while striking out a pair. Carter threw two innings in relief without allowing a hit and striking out two Mustangs.

As mentioned, the championship is Wheelersburg’s second in program history. The tournament appearance is the school’s sixth overall and second consecutive.

That streak could very well continue next season as the Pirates bring all but three seniors back — Brynley Preston, Lyndsay Heimbach and Hailey Conn.

“You look at Lyndsay Heimbach and she’ll tell you she’s had a long senior year. She’s worked her tail off. Brynley has made some big plays in the last couple of games. She’s been rock solid for us behind the plate,” Ruby said. “Hailey hasn’t been in the lineup but she’s been willing to play that role for us. You have to compliment a kid that’s willing to do that, especially when they’re a senior.”

Wheelersburg’s Brynley Preston hugs the Division III state championship trophy after Saturday’s 5-2 win over Tuslaw in Akron.
CREDIT: Derrick Webb/SOSA

But before any thought of a tournament run in 2023, Ruby says her Pirates are going to enjoy what they’ve accomplished before a dose of rest and relaxation.

And, of course, they’ll be placing a newfound trophy in the school’s case.

“This is just a tremendous accomplishment. It takes a lot,” Ruby said. “People don’t know what all goes into this. It’s not just talent. I’ve told them that. Talent doesn’t get you anywhere. It’s a lot of other things. But it’s the same goals every season. We want to win our league, our sectional, our district, our region and the state. Every year. But it’s a step at a time. We want to put in the work to get there. That’s what it’ll be a few months from now.”


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