FINDLAY - It was only two letters, but it spoke volumes:
After their Division IV district semifinal game, members of the McComb Panther softball team presented their counterparts from Mohawk with flowers and wristbands embroidered with the initials of Audrey Perkins, a Mohawk senior who passed away Tuesday after a car accident.
It was a classic gesture of sportsmanship that followed a classic tournament game.
Warrior catcher Dani Tyree characterized her classmate as someone who played softball with them when they were younger, who kept trying and never gave up.
"Audy knows the pressure that we have and Audy knows how we feel," she said. "I know she's there for us. I know she's there; I know she's looking down."
Mohawk 2, McComb 0
McComb (15-11): Kristen Buck 3-0-1-0; Brenda Dee 3-0-0-0; Hannah Bundy 3-0-1-0; Abbie Joy 3-0-1-0; Karah Kettels 3-0-0-0; Sarah Kettels 3-0-0-0; Kylie McDowell 2-0-0-0; Amanda Cortez 2-0-0-0; Bridgette Swartz 2-0-1-0. Totals: 24-0-4-0.
Mohawk (19-5): Sarah Runion 3-0-1-0; Ashley Cooper 3-0-0-0; Taylor McClain 3-1-1-0; Kasey Adelsperger 3-0-0-0; Dani Tyree 2-1-1-0; Nikki Kieffer 3-0-1-2; Molli Cartwright 3-0-1-0; Clara Adelsperger 3-0-0-0; MacKenzie Sowers 2-0-1-0; Charlotte Moes 2-0-1-0. Totals: 27-2-6-2.
McComb0000000 - 0
Mohawk000002X - 2
WP - K. Adelsperger. LP - Buck.
2B - Joy (MC)
The Warriors felt she was there in spirit and Nikki Kieffer felt she was there with her when she drove home the game's only runs with a single in the bottom of the sixth, giving Mohawk an emotional 2-0 win, and a trip to today's district title game against North Baltimore.
"This entire game I've been talking to myself, 'Audy's with me the whole time.' And that's what I just keep saying to myself, is 'Audy's here, she can help us,' and look, she did, obviously," Kieffer said. "Last inning and we get two runs in. She's always with us; she will always be with us. ... It was Audy, that's what we just keep saying to ourselves. Little miracles keep happening."
The game itself was a pitcher's duel in which there were more strikeouts than base hits. Mohawk's Kasey Adelsperger and McComb's Kristen Buck matched zeros on the scoreboard through the first 5 innings, with neither team mounting a serious threat to break the tie.
However, in the sixth Mohawk finally got a couple breaks.
Taylor McClain led off the inning reaching on an error by McComb shortstop Karah Kettels. Adelsperger came up next and launched a shot to deep left field. With the wind blowing in, the ball stayed in the park and Kylie McDowell made a diving catch to seemingly save a run.
"It's like, come on, something break," Mohawk coach Jenny Weinandy said. "Something break, give us a little bit of luck."
A bit of luck though came on the next play.
Tyree reached on an infield hit where Kettles wasn't able to even make a throw to first. However, it was her throw back to the pitcher that proved to be the problem.
Her throw got away from Buck and the Mohawk runners were able to move up to second and third.
Kieffer followed that up with a base hit that scored McClain and Tyree and broke the deadlock.
"This group has a strong chemistry. And each game it grows and grows and grows," Weinandy said. "Dani said it all, when we came in (before batting in the sixth), she said she's not done playing yet. She wanted to keep playing and keep playing. She's not ready to quit. That's a senior saying that and the team just helped her out there. It obviously meant something to Nikki because she wasn't going to go down swinging without making connections."
Adelsperger retired the Panthers in order in the seventh to close out the game.
"Definitely took longer than what I expected, but hats off to our defense," Weinandy said. "They stayed focused. Just didn't know when the hits were going to come. I thought we'd time her up better, but McComb, that pitcher can hit her spots really good, inside-out, she knows where to place the ball. I'm not taking anything away from that pitcher."
Adelsperger held McComb to just four hits while striking out six. Park struck out eight and allowed only six hits, but the two hits that came in the sixth, coupled with two errors proved to be McComb's undoing.
"We were hitting her early and we just couldn't get a couple in a row," McComb coach Nick Shoop said. "They put together a couple hits in a row and that was the difference today with the two runs.
Shoop also praised the defense of McComb second baseman, Molli Cartwright, who had six putouts in the game.
"They're defense had us played well," he said. "The second baseman played further towards first where we like to hit through the hole there. I believe too, just the way the ball bounces, today it did not. All year it's been tougher getting those runs in. It just did not bounce the right way and they were well adjusted to the players and knew our tendencies and adjusted to that."
Mohawk will be back at Findlay today at 5 p.m. to play North Baltimore for a district title and a trip to regionals.
Moments after the final out was recorded Thursday, the result took a backseat as the traditional postgame handshake became much more. The teams exchanged hugs and the McComb players presented Mohawk with a bouquet of flowers, and wristbands for every member of the team.
"Thank you to McComb for being so gracious. It was unbelievable," Weinandy said. "They're a very considerate team. It means a lot, it really does. I appreciate McComb being so thoughtful."
Shoop credits his lone senior Abbie Joy and junior Hannah Bundy as the ones that first came to him about wanting to make a gesture to Mohawk after the game. He said assistant coach Brad Hammond came up with the idea for the embroidered wristbands, that Tyree and Kieffer said they'll be wearing the rest of the tournament run.
"When they did the moment of silence (before the game), it kind of got to me," Tyree said. "And then after the game, it really hit me, like that's awesome sportsmanship. I give them credit, 100 percent. That really, really means a lot to the seniors. It's just amazing; it's unbelievable. I thank them, 100 percent. I'll never ever forget this."
"I can't thank them enough. It was amazing what they did," Kieffer added. "It shows really good sportsmanship. It just makes us feel like we're not the only ones suffering. When they came up and gave it to us, they were even crying too. They showed their support."