One year after no one got to play for a state softball championship at Firestone Stadium in Akron, the Lakota West Firebirds will get their fifth chance to claim the program’s first state title.
» PHOTOS: Firebirds vs. Beavers
Top-ranked Lakota West scored four runs in the first two innings Saturday and rode the early lead to a 5-3 victory against Beavercreek in a Division I regional championship at Centerville High School.
“I’ve been dreaming about this since I was a little girl,” Lakota West junior pitcher KK Mathis said. “To watch your dreams come true, it’s a blessing.”
Beavercreek, which was seeking its first regional title since 1983, trailed 5-0 when it got on the board with a solo home run by Alyssa Lewis in the sixth. Paige Weekley then hit a two-run home run with one out in the seventh.
Beavercreek put the tying run on first before Mathis ended the game with a strikeout. Gloves rained on the infield after the players threw them into the air in celebration before embracing Mathis in a group hug on the mound.
Mathis struck out 10 and allowed five hits in seven innings. The early lead helped, and Lakota West played small ball to build it. The Firebirds scored their first run on a wild pitch. A single by Kendall Forren brought in the second run. The third run in the first also scored on a wild pitch.
“It was a great feeling,” Lakota West coach Keith Castner said. “We’ve got some veterans and some really good players, and we made them make mistakes. When you can jump up like that and you have a pitcher like KK and a defense like that, we’re pretty solid.”
Belle Hummel, Molly Grace and Forren all had two hits for Lakota West (30-1), which will take a 16-game winning streak into the state final four. It hasn’t lost since falling 5-1 to Indianapolis Roncalli on April 17.
Lakota West will make its first state final four appearance since 2018 when it lost 11-1 to Massillon Perry in the championship game. It will play New Philadelphia or Massillon Perry, both of which are unranked in the state poll, at 12:30 p.m. Thursday at Akron Firestone Stadium. Those teams play their regional final at 2 p.m Sunday.
Beavercreek finished the season 25-5. Coach Megan Barrett was playing against her alma mater. Castner coached her from 2005-07.
“She’s doing a great job with them,” Castner said, “We beat a very good team today. I’m very very proud of our girls.”
This was Barrett’s first season coaching on the field. She didn’t get to coach in 2020 when the season was cancelled because of the pandemic. She’s excited by the results in 2021.
“We’ve been working on changing the program,” Barrett said, “and I think we’re finally seeing the results of all the hard work that they’re putting in. They have that never-die attitude and effort and they’re always going to put every amount of effort they possibly can into into everything.”
In other regional softball action:
• Greeneville lost 21-20 to Lakewood in Mason in eight innings in a Division II regional championship game. Lakewood rallied from a 15-6 deficit in the final three innings to take a 17-15 lead into the seventh, and then Greenville sent the game to extra innings with a game-tying, two-run home run.
The teams combined for 33 hits, 19 walks and nine home runs. Greenville finished the season 31-2.