RICHMOND - The weather and the opposition has been tough to deal with.
The Ohio Division II Eastern District sectional softball tournament at Jefferson Lake State Park will, weather permitting, end today. The first pitch is slated for noon.
Indian Creek, the No. 1 seed, will take on No. 2 Big Red in the title tilt. The Redskins (15-2) rallied to defeat No. 4 seed Edison, 3-1, in the semifinals Friday to advance to the championship game, while Big Red (21-7) advanced by blanking Buckeye Local, 8-0, in the other semifinals Wednesday.
"Indian Creek is a good team," second-year Big Red head coach Gus DiMarzio said. "They have a really good pitcher. Paige is one of the best I have ever seen. We are going to have to battle and fight to score runs off of her. We are hoping for the best."
Both Big Red and Indian Creek are playing well heading into today's game. Big Red has won 11-straight games dating back to a victory April 21 at Weir.
"We've watched Big Red play," Indian Creek head coach Angela Penner said. "Big Red has a nice team. They have a couple nice players. They are on a roll. They have won 11-straight games.
"I know they are going to bring their A-game. We are going to have to bring our A-game.
"How can you not? This is the sectional final. If you win, you go on. If you lose, you are done."
Buckeye Local finisheed 14-7.
"We beat a good team," DiMarzio said. "Joe (Soos) is a good coach. Buckeye Local is a good team. Their kids work hard."
Prior to the victory, Big Red lost in its previous four trips to the semifinals - in each of the last two years to the Redskins (6-0, 7-0) and to the Wildcats in 2010 and in 2009.
In 2010, Edison defeated Big Red, 8-5, and the Wildcats knocked off Big Red, 2-1, in 2009. Big Red advanced to the semifinals in both seasons by defeating Beaver Local in the quarterfinals. Big Red defeated the Beavers, 6-5, in 2010 and 2-1 in 2009.
Indian Creek has won the last two sectional titles with both victories coming against the Panthers, 5-2 and 10-7.
"We don't mention that stuff to the kids," Penner said. "We just want to continue to do what we do every day. We want to work to get better. We want the kids to work hard and have fun, and that is what they do."
The sectional final was originally scheduled to be played Thursday.
"The weather has hurt everybody," Penner said. "We are trying to find that consistency. We have not play since last Friday against Martins Ferry. "Even when we came to watch the games, you could see the teams were trying to find that consistency."
The Wildcats came one game short of playing for their first sectional title since 2011. After a rough start to the season, Edison played its best softball at the end of the season.
"Absolutely," Edison head coach Spencer Bendle said. "This season was a struggle. The weather was tough. We started off slow. I'm not really sure why, but the weather did not help.
"It took us until a good part of April to find ourselves as a team, and then we started playing well. When April turned to May, we started playing our best softball. We won six out of our last nine games to close out the season. We also had a couple of close losses in there.
"We were getting beat at the beginning of the season. We were getting beat soundly. We were able to shake that off, and we were playing good ball in May. I just wish we were playing longer in May."
Big Red has not played in a sectional final since 2006. Big Red also made it to the title tilt in 2005.
"It's the first time in a while," DiMarzio said. "We are happy to be back, but we can't just be happy to be there. We have to be ready to play."
In 2006, Big Red, the No. 1 seed in the tournament, defeated Buckeye Local, 3-2, in the semifinals before falling to No. 2 seed Edison, 6-1, in the sectional final. In 2005, Big Red defeated the Panthers, 4-3, in the semifinals before falling to Edison, 5-3, in the final.
The Wildcats have defeated Big Red eight times in the sectional tournament since 2002, including six-straight seasons from 2002-2007.
Indian Creek defeated Big Red, 2-0, in the quarterfinals back in 2008.
The winner of today's sectional final will play in the district co-final at 5 p.m. Wednesday at Bill Rice Field at River View High School.
Dover has defeated Indian Creek in the title game in each of the last two seasons. Last year, the Tornadoes topped the Redskins, 2-1, in nine innings, while Dover defeated Indian Creek, 6-1, in 2012.
"Our schedule has helped us a lot this year," Penner said. "We have been on the road a lot. We were on the road last week at Harrison Central and at Martins Ferry. That helped us a lot.
"I am proud of the girls. They stayed mentally tough today."