PERRY SOFTBALL TEAM MAKES HISTORY

“Anytime! Anywhere!

“Execute! Execute! Execute!

“It is amazing how much you can accomplish when it doesn’t matter who gets the credit.”

Harry Truman

“Rule 76: NO EXCUSES!  PLAY LIKE A CHAMPION! (Wedding Crashers)

These were the messages posted on the bus and in the dugout for the softball team’s two state tournament games. Whether these messages helped them focus or not, the Perry High School softball team took them to heart. On June 3, they became the first team in Perry softball history to win a state semi-final game.  But, that wasn’t enough for this group of ladies. On June 5, they became the first team, in any sport in Perry’s 52-year athletic history, to ever win a state championship.  After three days it is finally starting to sink in to head coach, Alison Heppe, a 1997 PHS graduate and Perry softball alum, “We made history and it means so much more to me because I went through the Perry softball program with Coach Bob DiAntonio. I love this program. I understand PERRY PRIDE!  To bring home the first state title to Perry, and have it be in a girls’ sport, well, I couldn’t be more excited and proud.”

When their season began Coach Heppe asked the girls what their goals were for the year.  Their answer, “To win the Federal League and the State Championship.”  From the beginning they proved they were serious, wracking up a 27-3 record.

Coach Heppe has praised her team at every turn for their work ethic, dedication and teamwork. She has repeatedly said that she could not have asked for a better group of girls.  At the softball awards banquet she praised not only the varsity and junior varsity teams and coaches, but also their parents and the entire Perry community. “We all have a share in this victory.”

The 2010 history-making team was comprised of six seniors (Caitlyn Ferrell, Anna Fach, Megan Marino, Sarah Samblanet, Maria Tayse and Kourtney Yarnall), one junior (Casi Rohr) and four sophomores (Abbey Filliez, Morgan McLaughlin, Jayla Saibene and Shelbi Tilton). Three freshmen, junior varsity team members (Abby Cameron, Morgan Craig and Katie Kraft) joined their varsity sisters for the tournament season. With tears in her eyes Coach Heppe told the banquet crowd, “I’ve been fortunate enough to have fallen in love twice in my life, once with my husband, Mike, and again with these girls.”  She was visibly moved as she told stories, presented awards and thanked the girls for a great season.  “All of our girls deserve awards.  It was truly a team effort.”

Assistant Coach Mike Heppe said, “We could tell early on that this team was different. It was the same team from last year, but they really connected this year.”  Anyone who watched them during practices or in the dugout could see the camaraderie as the girls joked with one another, wiped tears, scheduled slumber parties and bonfires, and treated one another like family.  From study tables to Insanity workouts to inspirational messages the coaches encouraged the girls academically, physically and mentally.  Even more importantly, the girls encouraged one another.  Senior Caitlyn Ferrell spoke for the six graduated teammates. “We’re not just teammates, we’re sisters.”  That much was obvious as the teammates openly wept at the thought that they would never again play softball together.

The Road to the Finals

The Panthers belong to arguably one of the toughest leagues in the state in softball. The Lady Panthers know this for a fact. Three of the last four years they were knocked out of the playoffs by Federal League teams who advanced into the District, Regional and even State Tournaments.(Hoover, Lake and Jackson) They knew that if they could make it past their Federal League rivals, they stood a good chance of making it to states.  The Lady Panthers did just that, beating Hoover to secure the District Title.  Two nail-biter, late inning wins in the regional tournament led to a chance to play for the state championship where they shut out both of their opponents, including number one ranked Grove City.  Perry entered the state tournament as unranked underdogs, underestimated by their opponents, perhaps, but never by their coaches or fans.

With the championship game about to begin, a storm hit the stadium, sending fans scurrying for cover. The team hung out in the locker room, telling jokes, teasing one another and finally napping on the locker room floor before being released for a dinner break until the weather cleared. “Some of the girls ate light, but others wanted to eat ice cream and cookies.  When Ali (Coach Heppe) said she didn’t care what they ate as long as they could still play, Ferrell and Fach were pretty mad.  They thought it would throw off their game.  Casi had this big plate of ice cream.  They took it away from her after she ate about half of it.  Now they’re probably thinking ice cream might not be so bad before a big game,” said assistant coach Mike Heppe.

Despite a five-hour rain delay, the crowd returned in full force to cheer the Lady Panthers on to victory. From cheers of “WE ARE PERRY” to antics by flag bearers, JoJo Tayse and Doug Mayes, the crowd rallied behind their team.  Not that they needed much encouragement after an exciting double play that started with Anna Fach and included the entire infield. It ended a Grove City scoring threat. The double play took the wind out of Grove City’s sails as the Panthers went on to score 10 runs, capped off with a two-run homer by Maria Tayse in the six inning to end the game with a score of 10-0. Throughout the game the Panthers outplayed their opponents both offensively and defensively.   “When we got our award and [the OHSAA announcer] told us to face our fans, it was unbelievable,” stated Caitlyn Ferrell.  The crowd roared as the announcer asked them how it felt to have a first time state championship. The players and coaches have been bombarded with requests for interviews from the media and even Facebook contacts, young players asking for their softball advice.  No matter what the future holds for the members of the 2010 Division One State Championship team, one thing is certain.  They will never forget this season, the year they made history for the entire Perry community and reminded us all what PERRY PRIDE is all about.

Senior Plans

Anna Fach:  John Carroll University:  Planning to play softball

Caitlyn Ferrell: Wheeling Jesuit University: Planning to play softball

Megan Marino:  Walsh University:  Academic Scholarship

Sarah Samblanet:  Malone University: Planning to play softball

Maria Tayse:  Malone University:  Planning to play softball

Kourtney Yarnall:  Ashland University : Planning to play softball

Individual Awards

Casi Rohr: 2nd team All-Ohio

1st team All-District

1st team All Federal League

Jayla Saibene: 2nd team All-District

1st team All Federal League

Kourtney Yarnall 2nd team All-District

1st team All Federal League

Perry Scholar Athlete

Caitlyn Ferrell 2nd team All Federal League

Abbey Filliez Honorable mention All Federal League

Shelbi Tilton Honorable mention All Federal League

Sarah Samblanet Honorable mention All Federal League

OHSAA Courageous Student Award

Anna Fach Archie Griffin Sportsmanship Award

Megan Marino Perry Scholar Athlete

OHSAA Scholar Athlete

Bob DiAntonio Sportsmanship Award

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