LIMA — Key hitting lifted both Fairview and Patrick Henry on Tuesday in Division III district semifinal action at Lima Bath High School and Friday’s district final will feature the underdog and favorite with a berth in regionals on the line.
In the opener, Fairview’s Logan Smith took a no-hitter into the fifth inning and the Apaches pulled away with an eight-run fifth to close the door on Van Buren in an 11-1 run-rule triumph. Meanwhile, Patrick Henry bashed 20 hits and held off a pair of charges from second-seeded Elmwood to top the Royals 18-7 in six frames and set up a rematch of last year’s district finals, won by the Apaches 5-4 in nine innings.
In the early contest, Van Buren appeared to have a shot at an early upset, scoring in the top of the third on an infield grounder with the bases loaded to take a 1-0 lead with two outs. With Smith having issued four walks to that point, the chance was there to blow things open but the Fairview senior rebounded to strike out five-hole hitter Amanda Strapp to end the threat.
The Apaches promptly tallied a three-spot in the bottom of the frame with just one base hit. After a Sami Kime grounder went through an infielder into center field, a pair of walks loaded the bases for senior Kinsey Dietrich. The Apache veteran ripped a single past second to put the top seed ahead 2-1 before an RBI sacrifice fly from Kamryn Boland made it 3-1.
“Even though we have a pretty experienced mature team, there’s going to be jitters at every level of tournament and I thought we showed that early. Van Buren took advantage and took it to us,” said Fairview coach Staci Renollet. “Our strength has been and will continue to be our team. If we make a mental mistake or if we’re not hitting up and down the lineup right away, we use other things. Our baserunning was amazing today.”
Neither side scored in the fourth and Smith went into cruise control, retiring five of the next six batters before an Emily Stall single to center field with two outs in the fifth for what proved to be the only Knight hit.
In the bottom of the fifth, Fairview finally found its stride against Strapp in the circle. Riley Collins, hitting ninth in the lineup, legged out an infield bunt single to lead off the frame, setting the tone. A grounder to short was mishandled allowing Anna Ankney to reach and Collins to advance and a sacrifice bunt from Dietrich moved the runners to second and third.
With two strikes, Boland powered a ground ball into the gap in right field to score a pair of runs and give the Apaches some breathing room at 5-1, a key point according to Renollet.
“Kamryn had to have the hit of the game,” said the Fairview coach of Boland’s base knock. “Two strikes and it’s still 3-1 but if she doesn’t move them, it puts pressure on Kendyl a little bit. That hit was huge and opened it up for everyone else as well.”
Added Boland: “It felt good to get that inning rolling after getting shut down the inning before. We didn’t want to stop at three runs where they were. We’ve experienced pressure through the season … but as a team we know we’ve done this before and we have the confidence to pull through.”
The Apaches sent 11 batters to the plate in the eight-run frenzy, aided by four Van Buren errors, including a dropped fly ball in the outfield that would’ve stymied the scoring burst at 8-1. Instead a mishandled ground ball with the bases loaded, a bloop single from Ankney and a wild pitch created the final three runs to form the final 10-run deficit and end the game via the mercy rule.
Things appeared to be on track for fifth-seeded Patrick Henry to do the same in the nightcap against second-seeded Elmwood.
The Patriots timed up sophomore Royal starter Madison Hoiles early and often across the first three frames. PH racked up 13 hits and 11 runs in that span to take a commanding 11-0 lead heading to the bottom of the third frame. Kaity Johnson and Natalie Nelson each smacked RBI singles up the middle in the first inning before a Becca Jones two-run base knock doubled the lead at 4-0.
PH again put up a four-spot in the second inning as leadoff hitter Erin Diem powered a triple to the corner in left field to start the hitting. Abby McGraw scored Diem with a sacrifice bunt before Johnson and Nelson again followed with base hits and Audrey Sonnenberg and Jones recorded RBIs, again a two-run knock from Jones doubling the advantage to 8-0 through two.
“We’ve been here before and we’re the underdog,” said Patrick Henry skipper Mike Meyer. “They came out hitting today. That’s pretty phenomenal. “
Diem tripled once again in the third when a fly ball was nearly caught by Elmwood in center field before rolling to the fence in what potentially could have been an inside-the-park home run. An off-line throw on a grounder from Johnson allowed two more runs to score and set up an 11-0 lead with just two innings away from a mercy-rule finish.
The Royals, however, had something to say about a lopsided tourney exit with three runs in the bottom of the third, two of which came off Hoiles’ bat on a single to the corner in left.
Elmwood again struck for multiple runs in the fifth, turning a 12-3 deficit into a manageable 12-7 hole thanks to a two-run double from nine-hole hitter Lainey Bingham and an infield hit by Chy Cluck.
Patrick Henry’s bats had one final flourish in the sixth to shut the door as the Patriots sent 11 to the plate. Seven PH batters recorded hits and all nine reached before a fly-out, throw-out double play ended the frame. Diem and Johnson both doubled in the inning for the Patriots to power the Red-White-and-Blue to the program’s third consecutive district final.
“When you get into a slugfest, you’ve got to outslug them,” quipped Elmwood coach Matt Hoiles, brother of former Baltimore Orioles’ catcher and current Elmwood assistant Chris Hoiles. “ I think we took too many pitches that were good and you can’t do that. You get into the state tournament, you’ve got to swing the bat.”
The Pats, despite a solid 13-4 mark entering the postseason, have used their underdog status as a badge of honor so far in the postseason, knocking off third-seeded Paulding in the sectional finals in comeback fashion before toppling the second-seeded Royals.
“As you go down the tournament trail, you need a little luck and sometimes kids start believing in themselves,” added Meyer, referring to a pair of impressive catches made in the field. “Once they start believing in themselves, funny things can happen.
“That was our goal to get back here. We’ve knocked three years in a row now. I told the girls, we’re opening that door and we’re going through this year.”
Van Buren 001 00 — 1 1 5
Fairview 003 08 — 11 7 1
Records: Fairview 20-1, Van Buren 13-8.
Winning pitcher: Logan Smith (5 innings, 1 run, 1 hit, 7 strikeouts, 5 walks).
Losing pitcher: Amanda Strapp (5 innings, 11 runs, 7 hits, 0 strikeouts, 2 walks).
Leading hitters: (Fairview) — Kiersten Cline double.
Patrick Henry 443 106 — 18 20 1
Elmwood 003 040 — 7 11 3
Records: Patrick Henry 16-4, Elmwood 10-7.
Winning pitcher: Becca Jones (6 innings, 7 runs, 11 hits, 3 strikeouts, 4 walks).
Losing pitcher: Madison Lyons (2.2 innings, 11 runs, 13 hits, 0 strikeouts, 0 walks). Other: Makenzie Mareches.
Leading hitters: (Patrick Henry) — Erin Diem single, double, 2 triples; Kaity Johnson 2 singles, double; Natalie Nelson 3 singles; Hannah Meyer 2 singles; Becca Jones 2 singles, 4 RBIs; Audrey Sonnenberg 2 singles; Ryanne Tietje 2 singles. (Elmwood) — Lainey Bingham single, double; Madison Hoiles 2 singles; Haley Zimmemran 2 singles.