Lady Lions eye more championship banners


The Fairfield Lady Lions softball program has enjoyed a rich and storied history of excellence. The program’s resume includes 23 Southern Hills Athletic Conference titles (including six consecutive), 35 sectional tournament championships (20 consecutive), 11 district championships (five in the last seven years), one regional trophy, and a state final four appearance in 1982.

In 2015, for the first time in school history, the Fairfield Lady Lions were voted No. 1 in Division IV in the final poll by the Ohio High School Fast Pitch Coaches Association and were ranked sixth in the Division III final poll in 2022.

The 2022 softball season was another great season for the Lady Lions. They finished with a 20-5 record with an extremely tough schedule. The Lady Lions had impressive victories in the tournament over Eastern Brown and Westfall, but lost a 1-0 game in the bottom of the 10th inning to Portsmouth West to finish as the Southeast District runner-up. Fairfield finished the season as the SHAC champions with a 12-1 record, sectional champions and district runners-up.

The Lady Lions graduated just one senior from that team, captain and all-conference player Halle Hamilton.

A veteran coaching staff returns to lead Fairfield in 2023 with former jayvee coach Lesley Hattan selected to replace retiring Mark Dettwiller as the head coach. Hattan becomes the first former player to be named the head coach. She is a 2000 FHS graduate. She has served as the jayvee softball coach for the past 13 seasons and is well familiar with the program.

Dettwiller stepped down with a 155-39 record. He was named SHAC Coach of the Year seven times in his eight seasons at Fairfield. He will remain a part-time assistant coach working with pitchers and catchers.

Longtime assistant head coach Tom Purtell enters his 29th year as the assistant head coach and begins his 56th year of coaching. Purtell was inducted into the Times-Gazette Highland County Athletic Hall of Fame in 2017.

Assistant coach Matthew Zimmerman also served as the Fairfield varsity coach from 2009-13, winning three conference championships, five sectional titles, and three district titles. Zimmerman also served as the head softball coach at East Clinton until returning to the Fairfield coaching staff.

Former Fairfield captain, all-conference, all-district and first-team All-Ohio second baseman Grace Larrick Moreland was named the junior varsity coach for the 2023 season.

“The coaching staff has high hopes for the 2023 Lady Lions. Eighteen FHS softball players have worked extremely hard to get ready for the season. They practice to be better every day,” A Fairfield news release said. “They chase perfection in hopes of attaining excellence. The coaches and athletic director have put together the toughest schedule the Fairfield Lady Lions have had to date. It includes 27 varsity games and eight junior varsity games. The Lady Lions will field an experienced team with seven returning starting players. The team will seek its seventh consecutive SHAC conference title. Fairfield looks to add to their 20 consecutive sectional titles, and seek yet another southeast district title.”

Fairfield looks to its seniors for leadership. Faith Miller is a three-year varsity starter and will be the catcher. Sydney Sanders, also a three-year varsity player, will be in left field, and Shaylie Duncan will see time in the outfield.

Fairfield’s junior players are a talented group. Caitlyn Quickle was an all-conference, first team all-district, and honorable mention all-state player a year ago. She was the top pitcher (13-4) and hitter (.757) for the Lady Lions a year ago. Quickle is recuperating from ACL surgery. Emmi Vance will move from center field to the infield. She-was all conference and a second team all-district player last year and led the team with six home runs and 41 RBI.

Kaitlyn Chambliss shared pitching duties with Quickle a year ago. She was (7-1) and played first base when she wasn’t in the circle.

Sydney Hooper will move from right field to center field and looks to bat at the top of the batting order. Juniors Addison Bales and Gwen Cox will add to the Lady Lions depth in the outfield and serve as courtesy runners.

Sophomore Jobey Hattan will play shortstop and had a great rookie season a year ago batting .425 and leading the team in runs scored (43) and sacrifices (4). Carly Sanders was the Lady Lions’ designated player (hitter) a year ago and this season looks to spend time at first base and in the outfield as a starter. Sophomore and rookie players Kelsey Clark and Emmy Caudill add depth and look to see action in the infield.

Freshman Rilee Quickle has had a solid spring training and will see action in the infield and at the pitcher’s position. Kyla Thomas is working hard as a backup catcher, while Kiera Bartley, Lillyan Bradley and Kaitlyn Eidenier look to push upper classmen for a couple of starting positions.

“The Fairfield Lady Lions’ goals are simple. Win a Southern Hills Athletic Conference title, a sectional championship and a Southeast District championship. We expect to be in a position to win every game,” the news release said.

The Fairfield Lady Lions have won seven Southeast District championships in the last 10 years (2011, 2013, 2015, 2016, 2017, 2018, 2019).

“Winning a seventh consecutive SHAC championship will definitely be a challenge for the Fairfield Lady Lions with several quality conference opponents competing for the top spot,” the news release said. “In Division I of the SHAC, look for Eastern Brown to compete with Fairfield to finish on top. In Division II, look for Peebles and Manchester to challenge Fayetteville for the top spot.”

Submitted by Tom Purtell, Fairfield assistant coach.

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