Nothing has been able to stop the North Canton Hoover softball team this year. You wouldn’t expect a little thing like a six-hour rain delay to do so, either.
Make that six hours, 15 minutes, after play was stopped just minutes after the start of its Division I state semifinal game against Mentor on Thursday.
And that was on top of a one-hour, 50-minute delay for what was supposed to be a 10 a.m. start.
Considering that, Hoover (33-0) didn’t care to prolong matters, pounding out a 15-3 victory that ended in five innings because of the mercy rule.
And now, only Elyria (27-5), a 5-0 winner over Mason late Thursday, stands between the Vikings and a third consecutive state championship.
Winning pitcher Tara Thacker delivered the crushing blow to Mentor’s hopes with her bat, slugging a grand slam — her first homer of the season — building the lead to an insurmountable 11-3 in the fourth inning.
“I was just aiming to hit the ball and get it in play and move some of the runners,” Thacker said. “I wasn’t looking for a home run, because obviously I’m not really used to hitting home runs a lot. But it was really surprising. I’m glad I did, glad I helped the team in every way I could.”
Thacker, a junior right-hander, also was her usual dominant self in the circle over the last four innings, albeit after allowing three first-inning runs that cut Hoover’s early lead to 4-3.
“After a slow start, which was not very typical of Tara, I think she settled in after the first inning,” Hoover coach Jerry Goodpasture said.
The first four batters for Mentor (20-11) reached base on a walk and three hits, and three scored in the first. But Thacker closed out the inning with three strikeouts and did not allow a hit the rest of the way.
“I think that’s why I had a slow start, because we were waiting so long,” said Thacker (21-0). “I feel like once I actually got in there and got myself in line, I was fine after that.”
Meanwhile, the Hoover offense did the rest, collecting 14 hits. The Vikings put the first four batters of the game on base. Mackenzie DiPietro walked and Ally Farrah reached on an infield hit. Junior Jenna Lilley’s first of three consecutive doubles knocked in one run, and the second scored when the throw got away for an error and a 2-0 lead.
But after freshman Andrea Farrah walked, the increasing rainfall led to a stop in play. After a one-hour delay, Ohio High School Athletic Association officials announced play would not continue for at least three hours based on a threatening forecast.
Another two hours and 20 minutes went by before play resumed. Once it did, a two-out single by sophomore catcher Kathleen Shier drove in two runs and made it 4-0.
Even Goodpasture could not recall such a lengthy delay.
“Not that long, no,” he said. “It’s not good for anybody. The first part of the game shouldn’t have even started. Someone’s going to get hurt by it. The girl out there pitching might get hurt. I’ve seen it happen a couple times in the state tournament.”
Hoover increased the lead to 6-3 in the second, on RBI doubles by Lilley and junior Kelly Dillow. After the five-run fourth, the Vikings added four more in the fifth, highlighted by DiPietro’s run-scoring double.
DiPietro, the senior leadoff hitter, reached base four times and scored four times. Senior Ally Farrah went 3-for-4 and scored three runs. Dillow had two hits and two walks in four at-bats.
And Lilley, the shortstop and leading hitter for the Vikings, added a walk and scored all four times.
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