ARCHBOLD -- It wasn't that long ago that the seniors on this season's Archbold softball team were looking up in awe at their heroes on the diamond and dreamed of one day being Blue Streaks.
Now it's their turn.
Led by pitcher Sarah Wyse, third baseman Alyssa Schaub, and center fielder Courtney Day, Archbold is 23-1 and ranked No. 1 in the Division III state coaches poll.
The trio has helped the Blue Streaks capture their sixth straight Northwest Ohio Athletic League title with an 8-0 record. They also were key cogs in the run to the Division III state semifinals last spring, the program's eighth appearance in the state final four. Archbold has won three state titles (1982, 1984, 1986).
Schaub, who is leading the team with a .519 average, serves as the offense's catalyst. The leadoff hitter has scored 42 runs and stolen 20 bases.
"It is a privilege to play here," Schaub said. "The coaches have built this incredible program. I remember my dad would take me to the games. I thought they were so cool and good. I hoped one day I'd have that jersey on my back. It makes me work harder."
Wyse (21-1) has dominated on the mound with 225 strikeouts in 139⅔ innings. Wyse, who has signed to play at Grand Valley State University, has a 0.99 ERA.
"It is awesome to play here," said Wyse, the ace for the 2010 state semifinalists. She said she looked up to pitcher Kendra Stahl, who led Archbold to the state semis in 2004.
"I thought she was the best thing ever. When I was little, those girls were my heroes," Wyse said. "Now I want to continue it. I want the little girls to want to be like us."
Day, who has a .429 average with 25 RBIs, called being part of the tradition "humbling."
"It's all about hard work and ethics," Day said.
Day, who grew up in Wauseon, transferred to Archbold as a freshman.
"A big part of the decision was so that I could be part of this successful program," Day said.
Coach Joe Frank, who is in his 10th season, credited the program's first coach, Barb Short, who led Archbold to six appearances in the state semifinals in the 1980s.
"She was ahead of her time," Frank said. "They had a lot of wins and success. Then Bob Gomez took over and he ran with it. Now I've done the same thing.
"It's not just one thing. It starts with athletes and we've been blessed with good athletes, who are coachable and love to compete. And we've also had very good pitching through the years."
He said his three seniors are a continuation of college-caliber players who have gone through the program.
"They're the guts and glue of it this year," he said.
But this year's team had its fair share of skeptics due to the loss of eight seniors to graduation, including six key contributors.
"We used the doubts this year as motivation," Day said. "We have high expectations every year. The underclassmen have stepped up to the plate."
Wyse also has responded at the plate, leading the team with 26 RBIs.
"It feels good because everyone thought we were going to have a rebuilding year," Wyse said. "But like one of our coaches said, 'Archbold never rebuilds, we reload.' "
Frank said he does not believe his team has overachieved but admitted being surprised at the team's record.
"To sit here and tell you I thought we'd be 23-1, that would not be truthful," Frank said. "But we've had a bunch of kids step up and fill in the gaps. They've done a better job than we hoped they would do."
Frank cited the play of freshman Becca Gerig at shortstop, freshman Cassidy Wyse at first, junior Chelsea Goebel at second, and junior Ruth Beck behind the plate.
Cassidy Wyse (no relation to Sarah) is hitting .405 with 24 runs scored and 20 RBIs. Gerig has a .333 average with 19 RBI and 17 runs scored.
"On offense, we have a good mixture," Frank said. "We don't have the power we had last year. But we're at .352 this year. A lot of teams would love to have that. We are scoring about eight runs a game."
The team has combined to hit 16 home runs, 47 doubles and six triples.
"We have it all," Schaub said. "We have Sarah on the mound. We make minimal errors on defense and we're scoring a lot of runs."
The defense has committed just 17 errors this season.
"I've been so pleased with our defense," Frank said. "We don't give teams extra outs."
Pitching with purpose
Frank said Sarah Wyse gives his team a chance to win every game.
"We know going into any game we will be in it," Frank said. "She is a really competitive kid. She does all she can. She has already left her mark on the program."
Wyse earned All-Ohio first team honors last year.
"I've always changed speeds a lot and that keeps everyone off balance," Wyse said. "It's a good feeling when you are on in a game."
Schaub was first team all-district.
"She has been lights out," Frank said. "She is a catalyst. She gets on base a lot. She also has a lot of extra base hits."
Schaub and Day have both committed to play at the University of Detroit Mercy.
"I absolutely love my role," Schaub said. "I like to show what I can do. I have an attitude that they can't throw anything past me."
Frank called a 2-1 win over Division I powerhouse Anthony Wayne a "signature win."
"That gave us some confidence," Wyse said. "They are a great program, so to beat them was big."
The team's lone loss was a 3-2 setback to Elmwood. Frank said he believes a team can learn more from a loss than a win and called it "a wake up call." The teams could meet again in the regional semifinal.
"It is good and bad," Schaub said. "It showed us we just can't put the uniform on [and win]. Other teams can beat us if don't bring our 'A' game."
The team, which opened the season with 15 straight victories, has won eight straight since the Elmwood loss.
When Schaub and the other seniors were freshmen, the team reached the regional semis. The Blue Streaks then made it to the regional final when they were sophomores before going to the final four last year.
"We do joke about kicking the door down this year and going farther," Day said. "We're not satisfied with making it to the state semifinals. We really want to take that extra step. We want to bring the title home."
The team first hopes to be playing in the district championship Friday at Lima Bath.
"Every year we've taken a step farther," Schaub said. "I loved being there last year. It's been my dream since I was little. Now I want to be back even more."
Wyse said she soaked up the atmosphere last year.
"Getting there is always what I wanted to do since I was little," she said. "But this year we want so much more out of it. We want to finish in a good way."
Contact Mark Monroe at: firstname.lastname@example.org or 419-724-6354.