AURORA — Less than two weeks ago, the Aurora softball team had things under control.
Tallmadge, on the other hand, needed some help.
On Wednesday, both squads learned of their fates in the Suburban League American Conference.
They both got what they wanted.
Of course, the Lady Greenmen would have preferred to have it all to themselves.
The Lady Blue Devils earned a share of the conference title after smashing host Aurora 10-0 Wednesday. The game was called after five innings due to the 10-run mercy rule.
As a result of Wednesday’s showdown, both Tallmadge and the Lady Greenmen finished 9-3 in the conference.
It was the second straight year the Lady Blue Devils earned the title. They shared it with Highland, which also got a piece of this year’s championship, last season.
Tallmadge, which earned a crucial 7-2 win over conference rival Revere Monday at Firestone Stadium in Akron, did just about everything flawlessly.
The Lady Blue Devils (16-5) pounded the ball mercilessly, played a little cat and mouse with some stellar small ball and got a dominant pitching performance.
To say the result was shocking was a vast understatement. Aurora defeated Tallmadge 7-3 at Stein Field last month.
However, Lady Blue Devils head coach Ed Seeker had some extremely good vibes regarding his team during the trip to West Pioneer Trail.
"I could see it in their eyes on the bus," he said. "They were focused. They knew what they had to do. I can’t say enough about their effort."
The Lady Greenmen (11-6) accomplished their mission 24 hours earlier.
They defeated Barberton 11-6 Tuesday on the road to clinch at least a share of the title.
Nonetheless, considering that Aurora was undefeated in conference less than two weeks ago, Wednesday’s beatdown certainly spoiled the celebration.
Since April 30, the Lady Greenmen won just two of their last five conference games. Losses to Revere and Highland the previous week opened the door for Tallmadge.
"After we beat Barberton, the girls weren’t interested in being co-champions," first-year Aurora head coach Sam Petrash said. "They’re disappointed. It happens. We lost to the better team (Wednesday)."
Everyone shined for the Lady Blue Devils, who finished with 10 hits and no errors.
But Aurora had no chance, thanks to the masterful pitching of junior pitcher Emily Pratt, who pitched her third no-hitter of the season.
Pratt, who overpowered the Lady Greenmen batters with her riseball throughout the afternoon, needed just 65 pitches to improve to 11-2 this spring. She finished with nine strikeouts and two walks.
"To be honest, I expected this," Pratt said. "We wanted this. We knew what was at stake. We had an intensity and a fierceness."
Petrash didn’t make any excuses regarding this team’s off-day. At the same time, though, the Aurora players had some unexpected distractions prior to the game.
Sophomore catcher Aleese Angelo had been sick during the week and was not 100 percent. The Lady Greenmen got an even bigger scare during warmups. Senior left-hander Kelci Fleming, who leads the team in wins, had to be taken to the hospital.
"When Kelci saw the trainer, her symptoms were signs of appendicitis," Petrash said.
Fortunately, Fleming returned to the field right before game time and entered the pitcher’s circle in the third inning.
It probably wouldn’t have mattered who was pitching on this day, though.
Tallmadge exploded for six runs in the third and four more in the fourth to put the contest out of reach against Fleming and starting sophomore right-hander Rachael Dudziak, who took the loss in the circle.
Aurora also had some uncharacteristic issues on defense. The Lady Greenmen committed four errors, which led to three unearned runs.
Of the nine position players in the batting order, eight Lady Blue Devils reached base.
Sophomore right fielder Kennedy Rorar led the way with three hits, including a double, three RBIs and two runs scored.
Pratt added two singles and two RBIs and and sophomore catcher Jordyn Severns, the team’s leadoff batter, had two singles and two runs scored.
Also contributing for the Lady Blue Devils were senior shortstop Gabbi Gray, who had a two-run double and a run scored, junior center fielder Autumn Malicoat, who had a single, a stolen base and two runs scored and senior second baseman Riley Chochola, who had a single and a run scored.
When his team suffered some heartbreaking conference losses, Seeker did not provide any fiery speeches.
His silence proved to be golden.
"This team doesn’t need that," Seeker said. "I just stay out of the way. We’re playing really well. We’re seeing the ball well, hitting the ball hard and our defense has been good."
Petrash and his players didn’t get the icing on the cake they so desired.
But a conference championship is a conference championship.
Aurora earned its first title since it captured the Chagrin Valley Conference championship in 2013.
Such a fact was not lost on the first-year coach.
"I’m proud of them," Petrash said. "They have overcome a lot this spring. I don’t think a lot of people expected us to do what we did. We wanted to change the banner and we did that."
Reporter Frank Aceto can be reached at 330-541-9444, firstname.lastname@example.org or @FrankAceto_RPC.