AKRON -- Emily Crossen, Sophia Goon, Molly Moffett and Anna Rowland have shared many things as seniors on the tradition-rich Hillsdale softball team.
On Friday night, the Falcon quartet shared rare tears after a 7-3 loss to Mechanicsburg in the Division IV state softball semifinals at Firestone Stadium.
Certainly, there were tears of sadness. But there were also tears of pride for taking the 2018 state champs back to the Final Four, a goal perhaps some thought was too lofty for this team laden with underclassmen.
"I think a lot of people did doubt us," said Goon, who singled in the loss and also drove in a run with a groundout. "Maybe it took some getting used to ... to get that confidence that we can do this.
"I think it shows a lot about who we are as a team and how we really came together this year," the outfielder said.
"You can use the doubters to fuel you as a team. We took that and ran with it and said 'Watch us.' I think it helped us a little bit. When people doubt you, it's kinda nice to do what they think you can't do."
SLOW START: Hillsdale (20-7) made its 16th appearance in the state tournament. Mechanicsburg (21-3) made its first. But the Indians got off to the kind of start for which the Falcons had hoped.
The Indians scored a run in the top of the second without a hit, taking advantage of two dropped fly balls by the Falcons. Mechanicsburg added three more in the fourth to make the lead 4-0, using two hits, a walk and another Hillsdale error.
The Falcons made it 4-1 in the bottom of the fourth when Crossen reached on an infield single, advanced on a Mechanicsburg error and scored on a sacrifice fly by sophomore catcher Emma Fowler.
The Indians made it 5-1 in the top of the fifth. But Hillsdale again battled back, plating two runs. Junior Hattie Stamen walked and sophomore Jessie Rowland bunted for a hit. Goon brought home a run with a ground out and Crossen collected an RBI with a sacrifice fly to center.
Down 5-3 going to the final inning, the Falcons still had momentum. But that disappeared with one swing when Mechanicsburg sophomore Hannah DeLong hammered a 3-2 pitch over the left field wall for a two-run homer and a 7-3 lead.
The Indians will play Saturday at 7 p.m. for a state title against Antwerp, a 1-0 winner over Peebles in the other state semifinal game. The Archers are also making their first state tournament appearance.
BATTLING TO THE END: Hillsdale coach Hannah Fulk, who starred at Hillsdale and later Bowling Green State University, took over at her alma mater in 2017 and took the team to its seventh state title last spring.
This year's team fell short of its ultimate goal. But the loss didn't detract from the pride Fulk expressed in her team.
“These girls didn’t stop fighting all day. We started out the game down 1-0 and they fought hard the entire game,” Fulk said. “Mechanicsburg is a very good team. They took advantage of our mistakes and went at us full-force, We could just never catch up.”
Hillsdale junior pitcher Olivia Betson had dominated in the post-season. The Falcons outscored its first five playoff opponents by a combined score of 35-5, including a 5-0 win over Monroeville in last week’s regional championship game.
Betson pitched a complete game Friday night, surrendering eight eights and just five earned runs, striking out two and walking two.
“The whole tournament Liv has pitched really well, shows hitting her spots, doing what she could each game,” Fulk said. “If they got a hit, she tried to come right back at them with the next pitch. She’s done really well towards the end of the season and I’m very proud of her.”
Rowland was the lone Falcon with two hits. Goon, Crossen, Betson, Fowler and junior Payton Fickes all had singles.
“I’m very proud of the girls and how they played and I’m very proud of these seniors," Fulk said.