It was an absolutely beautiful day for softball as the Fairfield Lady Lions made their sixth appearance in the last seven years in the Southeast District Championship Game at Minford High School before a standing room only crowd. The District Championship game featured not only two of the top teams in the Southeast District, but the two top teams of the Southern Hills Athletic Conference. The Peebles Lady Indians (21-4, 12-1 SHAC) and the Fairfield Lady Lions (19-1, 13-0 SHAC). The Fairfield Lady Lions who defeated the Peebles Lady Indians 10-1 and by doing so won their third consecutive Southeast District Championship and trip to the Sweet Sixteen.
The Fairfield Lady Lions played an outstanding game this afternoon against a very good Peebles softball team. Kaiti White was brilliant in the circle today, allowing only a single run on 4 hits, walked one, and struck out 8 Lady Indian hitters to earn her 19th victory of the season against only one loss. The Fairfield Lady Lions defense returned to form today making several great plays in the field including a diving catch of a line drive by shortstop Emily Williams in the fourth inning. But the Fairfield Lady Lions offense highlighted how this could be a real special season, pounding out 14 hits, scoring 10 runs, and mammoth home run in the third inning by Lauren Arnold.
The game started as expected as Madison Pierce and White shut out their opponents in the first two innings.
But the Fairfield Lady Lions were able to discuss their at bats with their teammates and make adjustments as they always do, and erupted to score five runs in the top of the third inning all after two outs. Megan Gragg led off the inning with a single to left field. Peebles pitcher Pierce was able to get the next two Lady Lions out. White then singled to centerfield advancing Gragg to second base. Molly Thackston entered the game as a courtesy runner for White. Kourtnie Smith singled to right centerfield to drive in Gragg as Thackston raced to third base. Allison Davis entered to run for Smith. Williams doubled to the fence in left centerfield to drive home both Thackston and Davis. Then Lauren Arnold stepped to the plate and blasted a towering home run over the left field fence to make the score 5-0.
The Fairfield Lady Lions added four more runs in the top of the fifth inning. Carli Reiber led off the inning with an infield hit to the left side. White doubled to centerfield moving Reiber to third base. Smith was safe on an infield error that scored Reiber as Thackston running for White advanced to third base. Williams grounded out to the second baseman driving in Thackston and Davis (running for Smith) moved to third base. Arnold singled and Lyndee Spargur followed with a single to drive in the final run of the inning.
Peebles would dent the plate in the bottom of the fifth inning on a single by Christian Reed, a stolen base, and a single by Johna Dunigan to make the score 9-1.
The Fairfield Lady Lions scored their final run in the top of the seventh inning. Williams singled to centerfield and Hayleigh Lowe came off the bench as a pinch runner for Williams. Arnold walked, and Spargur followed with a single to load the bases. Shania Setty grounded back to the pitcher Madison Pierce who threw home for the force out, but the catcher’s throw to first base was wide of the base and into right field as Arnold scored.
White would take the mound in the bottom of the seventh inning to seal the victory. Kylie Sims lead off the inning with an infield single, but White and the Lady Lions end the threat with three consecutive ground ball outs sending the Lady Lions to the Sweet 16.
The Fairfield Lady Lions advance to the Pickering Regional Tournament for the fifth time in seven years (2011, 2013, 2015, 2016, and 2017) and their ninth time in program history (1981, 1982, 1986, 2006). It is first time in program history they have made three consecutive appearances. The Fairfield Lady Lions will play the No. 6 state ranked Portsmouth Clay Lady Panthers (27-1) on Wednesday, May 24th at Pickerington Central High School. Game time is scheduled for 5:00 PM. Portsmouth Clay defeated Paint Valley 2-1 in 10 innings this afternoon. The Pickerington Regional features four of the top ten teams in Division IV: Danville (2), Portsmouth Clay (6), Strasburg Franklin (7), and Fairfield (8). Williamsburg an early season opponent is ranked No. 5.
Tom Purtell is the assistant coach for the Lady Lions.