By JOSH MORGRET
AKRON — With it being the first trip to the state softball semifinals for the Elmwood Royals, the size and nature of Firestone Stadium and the event itself might have had them in awe or surprised.
The third-ranked Royals committed a pair of errors and Hebron Lakewood junior Alissa Birkhimer allowed just one hit as the top-ranked Lancers eliminated the Royals 5-0 in a Division III contest Thursday.
Lakewood (31-2) advances to meet Wellington (23-4) for the state championship Saturday at 12:30 p.m.
Elmwood bows out of the tournament at 29-2.
"It's something you have to cherish," Royals coach Matt Hoiles said of the trip to state.
"We got beat 5-0. We made some mistakes and that's what cost us. In the long run, we've got the taste of it now and we have a lot of young girls."
Lakewood, which eliminated two-time defending state champion Bloom Carroll in the regional finals, first reached the scoreboard in the third inning.
Emily Voehringer singled and, after a batter interference call for an out when a dropped bat struck a ball that was in play, Chelsea Archer and Lindsay Barrett walked.
A wild pitch by Elmwood freshman pitcher Marissa Lee (8-2) allowed Voehringer to score with two outs.
"I just think we've never been here before and some of the nerves may have gotten to us," Hoiles said.
"We made mistakes and you can't do that when you're getting down to state and the final two games of the year."
The game remained 1-0 entering the sixth inning.
Barrett was hit by a pitch with one out and after a fly-out, Caitlin Houk singled, sending Barrett to third.
Chelsea Brewer then ripped the first pitch she saw for a single to left field and a 2-0 lead.
The Royals appeared to be out of the inning when Sarah Wogan hit a slow roller to first baseman Liz Wagner.
But after Wagner fielded the ball cleanly, the ball popped loose as she tagged Wogan. Houk scored and Brewer made it to third on the play.
The Lancers got another run in the inning when Megan Swiantek hit a single to drive in Brewer, making the count 4-0.
"When you win a state semifinal game, you always want to say how tough your opponent was," Lakewood coach Criss Nadolson said.
"They came to play. I think our pitching and defense dominated them."
Lakewood scored its last run in the seventh when Chelsea Riley tripled to right field and scored on Archer's groundout.
Birkhimer, who made a trip to the hospital Sunday for strep throat, indicated that she had recovered well.
"I believe as a pitcher I felt great," she said.
"We were confident in ourselves and we all believed in each other."
The only hit Birkhimer allowed was Dannielle Barndt's bunt single in the second inning. The Lakewood pitcher struck out 11 and walked two.
"She was a pretty dominant force out there," Nadolson said.
Lee, forced into action in the circle with first-team all-Ohioan Brittany Dauterman sidelined by a broken pitching arm, allowed two earned runs on five hits and walked four while striking out three.
The Royals didn't exit the tournament with without feeling rewarded just by having gotten to play at state.
"It feels great," Elmwood senior Brooke Morgart said.
"You hate to go out like this and everyone feels lousy now and sad because it's over.
"But there's nothing to be ashamed of."
Lakewood 001 003 1 — 5 6 0
Elmwood 000 000 0 — 0 1 1
WP — Birkhimer (29-2). LP — Lee (8-2). top hitters: (L) Voehringer 2B, 1B; Riley 3B; Brewer 1B, RBI; Swiantek 1B, RBI. (E) Barndt 1B.
records: Lakewood 31-2, Elmwood 29-2.