LIBERTY TWP. — Hamilton High School’s Steve Heckman was reminded Thursday why he’s still in the dugout. It was because of coaching this year’s group of seniors and having the chance to compete for a district title.
Lebanon scratched a run across the plate in the bottom of the eighth inning to knock off Hamilton 1-0 in a Division I district final at Lakota East.
The Warriors (26-3), who have won 23 in a row, stymied Big Blue’s best season since 2008.
“This is why I still do this — to get this opportunity to be at this place,” said Heckman, who praised seniors Jaycee Taylor, Katelyn Polido, Maira Morgan and Payge Iglesia.
Hamilton, which got a gutsy performance from freshman pitcher Emili Schappacher, finished the season at 17-8.
“They’ve done everything that I’ve asked,” Heckman said. “I’ve known them for years — waiting on them to come through. They brought a little life to our school.
“Our conference is pretty good,” Heckman added. “We’d go toe to toe with anybody. I’m just super proud of them. I’m sad for them, but as a coach, I’m just so proud. This is why I’m still doing this.”
Lebanon, ranked sixth in the final Ohio High School Fastpitch Softball Coaches Association poll, moves on to face Miamisburg in a regional semifinal on Wednesday, May 24, at 2 p.m. at Mason.
“It’s been hard on our seniors, hard on a lot of returning players, but we stepped it up today,” Warriors coach Brian Kindell said referring to falling in the district finals two seasons prior. “We found a rather uncharacteristic way for us to win a game.”
Schappacher held Lebanon, the Eastern Cincinnati Conference’s best hitting team with 25 home runs and a .428 average, to only three hits heading into extra innings. Schappacher retired 13 out the first 14 Warrior batters.
“She pitched a great game,” Kindell said of Schappacher. “We were forced to play lights out defense today. We backed our pitcher up who threw great. We backed our pitchers up all day with the glove. We eventually found a way to win. Winning games in May is never easy.”
Kindell told his squad prior to Thursday’s district final to expect a 1-0 game.
“It held up,” he said.
Ashley Simko walked to start the bottom of the eighth and reached third following a Jane Luezinger base hit and a Reagan Vunak intentional walk. That loaded the bases with one out.
Juliana Gonzalez stepped up to the plate and singled in Simko for the game winner.
Polido and Iglesia led Big Blue with two hits apiece off Lebanon senior starter Audrey Smith, who had five strikeouts. Freshman Sophia Sheidler came in on relief to strike out the final three Big Blue batters.
“The big thing about the beginning of this season was our energy. That set the tone for us,” Polido said. “We knew that once our energy got down, we weren’t going to play as well. We had to bring it back up. We always had to keep it up throughout the game. That’s what really helped us out throughout the season — having energy in the dugout, energy in the field.”
FAIRFIELD 5, CENTERVILLE 2
MASON — Fairfield came back from a 2-0 deficit to capture a Division I district title on Thursday.
The Indians (19-5) have won four in a row and play Milford on Wednesday, May 24 at 5 p.m. at Mason.
CARLISLE 13, ARCANUM 7
VERSAILLES — Carlisle has won 23 in a row, including Thursday’s Division III district title victory over Arcanum. It’s the third district championship in a row for the Indians.
Freshman Mya Howard had seven RBIs to pace Carlisle (23-0), which advances to the regional semifinals to face Miami East on Wednesday, May 24 at 2 p.m. at Centerville.
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