GREENVILLE – Greenville seniors Cassie Cromwell and Sydney Grote have amassed 108 career wins and are in the sweet 16 of the Ohio High School Athletic Association softball tournament for a fourth consecutive year.
But the Lady Wave seniors still are missing the prize they most covet – a trip to Akron and a state championship.
“Akron or bust,” Grote said.
Greenville has lost in the regional finals of the OHSAA tournament – just one win shy of making it to the state final four – in each of the past three seasons.
As freshmen, Cromwell and Grote were part of a team that lost 7-1 in the regional final to Granville. As sophomores they lost 4-0 to Hamilton Ross in the regional final. Then as juniors they lost 5-3 to Jonathan Alder in the regional final on a walk-off home run in the bottom of the ninth.
“We’re used to stubbing our toe,” Cromwell said. “That’s not going to happen (again).”
Though they’ve come up short of their ultimate goal in years past, Cromwell and Grote have helped make Greenville one of the premier softball programs in Ohio – winning district titles in 13 of the past 15 years. The two seniors have played big roles in that success throughout their high school careers, earning league honors from the Greater Western Ohio Conference each year.
“Four district gold medals is awesome for them as kids and as a program,” Greenville softball coach Jerrod Newland said of his seniors. “We’ve just got to bust through.”
One area Cromwell and Grote have excelled for Greenville is at the plate. The two seniors have hit eight home runs each this season, leading the Lady Wave to a program record for home runs in a season.
With the two power hitters leading the way, Greenville has scored 9.6 runs per game this season as it’s compiled a 26-5 record and a No. 3 ranking in the Ohio High School Fastpitch Softball Coaches Association Division II state poll.
“(Assistant coach) Justine (Shilt) has been working all year on the kids offensively, and Coach Shilt does a great job of hitting,” Newland said. “Just so proud of her and the kids. You know, hitting is contagious. You look at this year we’re right around 300 runs, 300 hits, and it’s fun when you hit and it gets contagious.”
As a team Greenville is hitting .385 this season with 57 doubles, six triples and 26 home runs. The Lady Wave have scored 50 runs in their first four OHSAA tournament games.
“We have good bats all through the lineup from one through nine and not every team can do that,” Grote said.
Greenville will put its offense up against Clinton-Massie at 2 p.m. Wednesday at Mason in the regional semifinals. It’s a rematch of last year’s regional semifinal in which the Lady Wave run ruled the Falcons 14-4 in six innings.
“I really think we’re going to peak here at the right time this year,” Newland said. “Really the last week or so starting to get sharp offensively. I think we’re ready to peak and just love where we’re at.”
A win against Clinton-Massie would put Greenville in the regional final for the fourth consecutive year, taking on either Jonathan Alder or Kenton Ridge. The regional final is scheduled for noon Saturday in Mason.
“It’s a crazy feeling,” Grote said. “We have worked so hard this whole entire season to get to where we are at this point, and we’re not going to stub our toe again like we have the past three years.”
The pain of being so close yet falling just short is still fresh for Greenville’s players, which is helping them to focus as they enter this year’s regional tournament.
“It’s heartbreaking, but it almost makes us more focused. It makes us more ready for getting there,” Cromwell said. “We’re going to go out with a bang on a win.”
Newland and his team want badly to win – for the seniors and the entire Greenville community.
“When you lose that you’re letting more than just the team down,” sophomore Morgan Gilbert said. “Like it’s the whole city that feels the loss and not just you.”
After three consecutive years of heartache, the Lady Wave are focused on changing the script this season – leaving Mason with a pair of victories then winning a couple more games in Akron.
“Just ready to go get the ring in Akron,” junior Lani Shilt said.
Kyle Shaner may be reached at 937-569-4312. Follow me on Twitter @KShanerAdvocate or get updates on Facebook by searching Darke County Sports or Advocate 360. For more features online go to dailyadvocate.com.