Fairfield rallies to top Lakota East, reach second straight regional final

CINCINNATI — Fairfield softball coach Brenda Stieger hasn’t had much of a reason to tweak the batting order throughout the season.

Adelyn Huey made it perfectly clear that she’s more than comfortable hitting at the nine spot.

Huey’s two-RBI double capped off a five-run sixth inning, and the Indians rallied to beat the Lakota East Thunderhawks 6-3 in a Division I regional semifinal at Indian Hill High School.

“It was amazing,” Huey said of her two-out hit to right field that brought home Leanna Lawson and Megan Spence to break a 3-3 tie.

“I thought she was going to catch it, and I was just trying to run as fast as I could because I wanted to get to second on that. It just felt awesome to get two runs in.”

Those two runs — and an insurance run in the top of the seventh — send the Indians to their second straight regional final. Fairfield faces Centerville on Friday at 5 p.m. at Indian Hill.

“I know the teams that we’re facing have all been there in the past at different times,” Stieger said. “So at this point, it’s anybody’s game. You prepare them as much as you can, but at this point, they know what they’re doing. You’ve just got to keep them levelheaded and keep having them believing in themselves.”

The Indians (22-3) have won nine in a row and 18 of their last 19, including two comeback victories in the postseason.

“Wow. We’ve been doing that — making things exciting,” Stieger said. “I always feel like we’re in there somewhere, especially when the top of my order starts to come up again.

“We’ve been good with two outs, too. That’s when things opened up. I feel like I’m going to say what all coaches say and that’s to believe in themselves. They don’t want this to end. We have a lot of senior leadership. We have kids that push each other.”

Fairfield has now won seven straight against its Greater Miami Conference rival.

“It’s disappointing that we lost, but we played a good ballgame,” Lakota East coach Kelley Haiber said. “As far as the season goes, it was what I expected them to do. They’re talented. They’re a good squad.

“We just hadn’t been there enough. But we will be there again. I think with the youth that we’ve got, we will be right back in this.”

Lakota East left fielder Jaedyn Armbruster robbed Fairfield’s Ava Hensley of a two-run homer in the top of the third inning, and that gave the Thunderhawks the early momentum.

Amber Munoz walked with two outs in the bottom of the third, Hailey Hensley doubled to bring Munoz home and the Thunderhawks went up 1-0.

Kaleigh Crawford singled and Yorie Schulte reached on a bunt single in the bottom of the fourth. They came around to score to make it 3-0.

Fairfield started its comeback in the top of the sixth, which included a two-RBI single by Spence and Huey’s two-RBI double.

“I love it. I’ve left her there all year,” Stieger said of Huey batting in the ninth spot. “That’s why we haven’t moved her. She has a really good batting average. My rule of thumb is best batting averages are at the top. I don’t do the one girl is going to bunt or play that traditional stuff. When we flip the order, you want your best hitters to get seen as many times as possible. We don’t save them, we just run them up there one after the other.”

“It always takes us a couple of innings to get that one hit,” Huey added. “We knew, even though we were down by three runs, we were going to get hits and we were going to come back. We just kept telling everybody to stay up in the dugout.”

The Indians tacked on an insurance run when Lawson was hit by a pitch, scoring Abby Stanfield with the bases loaded and two outs in the top of the seventh.

Lakota East’s Karli Dame relieved Crawford, who went six innings, struck out four and give up six runs on seven hits.

“We came into the game really wanting to beat them,” said Arnett, who went 2 for 4 with an RBI to pace Lakota East. “It’s not very often when you get to play a team three times in a season. It’s also really hard to beat a team three times in a row. That was our mindset coming in, and that was my mindset.

“It was definitely the most important game I’ve ever played in. We were pretty positive, but we couldn’t pull through in the sixth inning. They started to time up Kaleigh. They’re a good hitting team, so we knew it was going to come at some point. But it just got the best of us.”

Spence went the distance in the circle for Fairfield, giving up six hits and just one unearned run while striking out three and walking two.

The Thunderhawks (22-9) graduate Leah Arnett, Hailey Hensley, Olivia Luerman, Jaedyn Armbruster, Halina Schulte and Isabella Rodriguez.

“It was really fun,” Arnett said. “Overall, we just had a lot of fun with them, and that’s what I wanted to do for my senior year.”

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