East beats West, adds to softball coach’s historic win total

Whether it’s against rival Lakota West or someone else and whether it’s No. 1, No. 500 or No. 502, a win is a win to Lakota East softball coach Steve Castner.

Needless to say, Castner has been smiling a lot lately.

Days after collecting his 500th career win, the 28th-year head coach guided the Thunderhawks to an 8-2 victory at West on Tuesday for No. 502 as East improved to 10-1 overall and 6-0 in the Greater Miami Conference. The Hawks share the GMC lead with Mason, who it meets April 20.

“I haven’t done anything but send runners,” said Castner, who has coached at East since its inaugural softball season in 1998 and was Lakota’s coach from 1990-1997 before the split. “They (the players) hit the ball, they throw the ball, they catch the ball. They are great kids and they work hard.

“It felt good (to reach the milestone), but every win feels good — whether it’s 501, 502 or No. 1 and whether it’s West, Mason, Fairfield or anyone else. Anytime you can get away with a win, especially against a quality opponent, it’s a plus.”

Win No. 500 came Friday against Centerville as Castner became the ninth coach in Ohio high school softball history to reach the milestone. He is 502-223.

East added to that Monday with a 10-0 win over Princeton and kept its momentum going Tuesday, taking a 1-0 lead in the top of the first off Megan Brankamp and adding another three runs in the third before West got on the board.

Pitcher Sydney Larson (6-0) drove in three of those first four runs, sending home leadoff batter Rachel Lewis from second in the first inning and then platting two more runs on a double in the third. Cassidy Hudson followed with an RBI double to bring in Larson’s courtesy runner, Danielle Eilerman, in the next at-bat.

Rachel Butikofer added an RBI double on a fly ball to left-center and Madison Beckham drove her in on a single. Lewis had a two-run homer in the sixth to finish the scoring.

“We’re hitting the ball well right now, and we took advantage of just a few mistakes by them,” Castner said. “She (Brankamp) is a good pitcher. She got us chasing a lot of pitches or looking at pitches too with a few third strikes looking, which we don’t like. But we had good pitching on our side, which is a good plus.”

The Firebirds (5-5, 4-3) answered with a pair of runs in the bottom of the third on RBIs from Alyssa Triner and Allie Cummins, but left a runner on second and stranded the only other runner to reach scoring position in the fourth.

West finished with just four hits, compared to 12 for East.

“We’ll find it,” West coach Keith Castner said. “We’ll get better. It’s just the last two or three games we haven’t hit as well as we would like, and we’ve got to make some plays in the field. We have to catch fly balls. East is hitting the ball well right now, so credit to them. They have a good ballclub.”

On Wednesday, the Firebirds will host Hamilton, while the Thunderhawks travel to Colerain.

Lakota East 103-022-0—8-12-2

Lakota West 002-000-0—2-4-0

WP – Sydney Larson; LP — Megan Brankamp; HR — LE: Rachel Lewis. Records: LE 10-1, 7-0 GMC; LW 5-5, 4-3

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