MACEDONIA — Archbishop Hoban first-year softball coach Kevin Yun was not quite sure what the regular starting lineup would look like during preseason workouts.
Yun was also skeptical about how the team would play once the regular season started, but his doubts went away as the Knights recorded wins and gained confidence during a tournament run that ultimately came to an end Saturday with a Division II regional runner-up finish to Triway.
Sisters Hailey Massaro and Hanna Massaro each hit a home run to lead Triway to a 5-3 win on a sunny evening at Nordonia High School.
Triway (28-1) advanced to the Division II state tournament for the second year in a row at Firestone Stadium in Akron. The Titans were the state runners-up to LaGrange Keystone last year.
Hoban bowed out with a 21-8 record and is set to lose senior starters Ellie Hardman and Lexi Hart, who graduated from Hoban earlier this month.
Hardman and Hart made several impact plays offensively and defensively to help Hoban win sectional and district titles.
"The kids all bought in," Yun said Saturday as he reflected on the season.
"I told them just now that I didn't think we were going to be very good, and they agreed. We were not very good when we started doing workouts in the fall and in the winter. Even in February, we couldn't even throw the ball from base to base, 60 feet. We just kept working. We kept doing it and doing it and doing it. We kept hitting everyday and we kept throwing everyday. They bought in and here we are."
Hoban entered Saturday with five tournament wins by a comfortable margin, defeating Field 12-4 in a regional semifinal, Tallmadge 11-0 in five innings in a district final, St. Vincent-St. Mary 13-1 in five innings in a district semifinal and Cleveland Heights Beaumont 15-0 in five innings in a sectional final.
"Our success had a lot to do with our energy and playing together as a team and learning to trust each other on the field and off the field," Hart said. "Our four corners drill [in the auxiliary gym at Hoban] took a lot of trust and trusting our throws and trusting that we could get there."
Hart and Hardman lauded Yun and his staff for providing "structure" and "motivation."
"The progress of this team is unbelievable," Hardman said. "Before the season, I had similar thoughts. We had a clearer plan at the beginning of the season that we all had to buy into. Seeing the progress is amazing."
The Knights offense wasn't as explosive Saturday against Titans sophomore pitcher Carter Wachtel, who hit three batters and allowed three hits, three walks and three runs.
"They didn't quit. ... [Hoban] is very good all the way around," Triway coach Ron Rock said.
Triway's Massaro sisters were the big hitters.
Senior Hailey Massaro, an Ohio State University recruit, hit her eighth home run of the season, a solo shot over the left-field fence, in the bottom of the second inning to give Triway a 1-0 lead.
Hoban junior Kennedy Bray tied the score at 1-1 in the third when she delivered an RBI single that brought in junior Mackenzie Wood.
Triway took a 2-1 lead in the fifth when Emma Flinner singled in Hailey Massaro.
Sophomore Hanna Massaro smacked a three-run home run over the left-field fence in the sixth to make it 5-1. Katie Hoffa and Flinner also scored on Hanna Massaro's fourth home run of the season.
Hoban rallied for two runs in the seventh without a hit and had the bases loaded with two outs, but was unable to get any closer. Hardman walked and scored when Wood lifted a sacrifice fly to center field. Catcher Sidney Conti reached on a fielder's choice and courtesy runner Chloe Foster scored when junior Lacie Quarles grounded out.
"They were very aggressive," Hailey Massaro said of Hoban. "Their pitcher [junior Faith Porter] hit good spots. I was very proud of us to come though in the last inning, but they were a good team."
The seventh inning also included Hoban junior Nylah Durham (hit by pitch), Hart (walk) and junior Robyn Ryan (hit by pitch) reaching base.
"It was definitely stressful," said Wachtel, who has a 23-1 record. "I think we were all feeling a little bit of nerves, but at the same time Hanna just had that big hit [in the sixth inning], giving us a cushion to work with.
"It was just working and knowing I needed to get the next batter. And if that doesn't work out, the next batter. Keep looking forward. Once you get caught up in all the stress and nerves, that's what's going to bring you down."
Yun described Carter Wachtel as "a special player" and "an elite pitcher" on Wednesday after a win over Field. He also said Triway is "a well-balanced team with a lot of talent."
Yun's thoughts didn't change Saturday after seeing Wachtel pitch and hit, and the Massaro sisters smack home runs.
"I felt like if we could have jumped on her [Carter Wachtel] a little bit earlier, things could have been different," Yun said. "She is good. They are a good team. I hope they bring it on home [and win a state championship].
"We didn't quit. I am really proud of them. We could have packed it up and went home at 5-1, but we didn't. We were right there. We were one hit away. I challenged them that next year we bring it all the way."
Hoban's future appears to be bright with junior starters Porter (20-6), Quarles, Ryan, Bray, Conti, Durham and Wood set to return along with sophomore starter Taylor Gerring.
That group of eight players and several reserves will try to add another trophy to the case at Hoban. The Knights softball program won five state championships under former coach Mary Ann King (Class AA in 1983, 1984, 1986 and 1987 and Division II in 1991) and one state title under former coach Luke Darrah (Division II in 1992).
King also led Hoban to a Class AA state semifinal appearance in 1985. Since the success in the '80s and '90s, former coach Mitch Wagner guided Hoban to a Division II state semifinal trip in 2007 and former coach Frank Voss led the Knights to a Division II state semifinal appearance in 2016 and a Division II state runner-up finish in 2017.
"I told the girls to get me their schedules, keep working this summer and don't forget this feeling," Yun said. "We want to go to the state tournament next year."
Wooster Daily Record sports reporter Alex Tichenor contributed to this article. Michael Beaven can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow Beaven on Twitter at www.twitter.com/MBeavenABJ.
This article originally appeared on Akron Beacon Journal: Triway tops Hoban in Division II softball regional final at Nordonia