The Fairfield Lady Lions softball team (21-4) came into Thursday night’s game looking to dethrone the no. 1 team in the state at division IV the Danville Blue Devils (28-2) and move on to the regional finals and a spot in the elite eight. Not only did they do what they set out to do to start the day, they did it in comeback fashion.
The Blue Lions showed quickly why they were the no. 1 team in the state to start the game by jumping out to a 3-0 lead with a single from their leadoff batter and back-to-back double by the next two batters. They collected another base hit before the inning came to a conclusion and they were up after one with a score of 3-0.
The Lady Lions totaled only three hits up until the sixth inning and things were looking bleak for the young team who had made it so far.
But in the sixth inning, as the Lady Lions started their third rotation through their lineup, the bats came alive.
Grace Larrick led off the inning with a double followed by another double by Carli Reiber. Kaiti White came up to the plate with still no outs and singled and then Emily Williams followed her with a double of her own. Kourtnie Smith got to first base by way of a hit-by-pitch. All five of those Lady Lions found themselves crossing home plate in the inning to take back the lead 5-3 with just an inning and a half to go.
In their defensive half of the sixth, the Lady Lions, led on the mound by White, retired the Blue Devils in order by way of a strikeout, groundout to White herself, and another strikeout.
In the top of the seventh, the Lady Lions, after having batted through their lineup in the sixth, started the inning off with Larrick once again and once again, Larrick came through with a base hit. The Lady Lions tacked on three more runs in the inning to take an 8-3 lead and give themselves some cushion for the final at-bat for their opponents.
The Blue Devils managed to score once more in the bottom half of the final inning but the game was ended on a force out at second base and the Lady Lions had won the game with a final of 8-4 and a spot in the Elite Eight.
“At Fairfield, we give away an award on the softball team for the girl with the best attitude,” said Lady Lions Head Coach Mark Dettwiller after the game. “I have six coaches on the team and asked them each to send me one name. Each one of them did and one sent two because they couldn’t decided. I had seven different names at the end of that process. That just goes to show you how great these kids are. They’re absolute students of the game and just love the game. I couldn’t be any prouder of these young ladies. These girls are never down on each other and always ready to pick each other up. They’ve basically played together all the way up and we have clinics with the youth coaches and they know how we want things so by the time the girls get here, they already know what to expect. It is phenomenal what they’ve been able to accomplish and will accomplish.
“We came into this last year as the number one team in the state, so we’ve been in their shoes. We were beat in that game by Shadyside. We just challenged the girls to go out and put pressure on them and boy they did.
“We’re just proud to represent the Southeast District and the Southern Hills Athletic Conference and hopefully we can get out here Saturday and take care of business like we always do.”
Leading the Fairfield Ladies at the plate were Larrick and White, both with 3-for-4 evenings and each with a double. Carli Reiber went 2-for-4 at the plate and also had a double and scored twice. Emily Williams, Kourtnie Smith, Lauren Arnold, and Megan Gragg all had one hit a piece.
White went all seven innings in the game allowing nine hits that only produced four runs, and she struck out four batters.
The Lady Lions, ranked no. 6 in the state, will now take on no. 5 ranked Strasburg-Franklin (23-6), who won their game 8-3 on Wednesday. That game will be played right back at Pickerington High School on Saturday, May 28 at noon.
Reach Robert Stegbauer at 937-393-3456 ext. 1679 or on Twitter @RStegbauer.