AKRON — Lebanon High School softball coach Brian Kindell spoke with his players for a final time this season beyond the right-field fence Friday afternoon at Firestone Stadium.
While emotions were raw, Kindell emphasized the bigger picture perspective after a loss in a Division I state semifinal.
Austintown-Fitch defeated Lebanon 3-0 after sophomore Sydnie Watts threw a no-hitter while striking out 12 batters.
Despite the outcome, Kindell reflected upon how proud he was of Lebanon’s journey the entire spring to reach the state Final Four.
“There was a period of time that at the beginning of the season we were 4-3 and no one was happy,” Kindell said. “And we pulled together and won 25 straight games. That’s not easy to do and it got us here to Akron. It wasn’t our day today offensively. We have to own that. But, at the end of the day they represented this program, the high school and the entire community in the way that any coach would’ve wanted.”
Watts struck out 12 batters and walked two as Austintown-Fitch (21-0) advanced to Saturday’s Division I state final against Whitehouse Anthony Wayne (28-3).
Watts added her name to the Ohio High School Athletic Association history book with the 14th no-hitter in state semifinal history. This weekend marks the 45th annual state tournament.
“We knew going in she was really, really talented and has had a great season,” Kindell said. “We knew it would be a tough day and runs would be at a premium. She threw very, very well and I tip my hat to her and the whole Austintown-Fitch team.”
Lebanon (29-4) completed its fifth trip to the state Final Four in program history — the first appearance since being a state runner-up in 2017. There was plenty of inspiration throughout this special week.
“At the end of the day (the team) did it for what’s on the front of their uniform,” Kindell said. “Exactly what I said - represent this program, Lebanon High School and the entire Lebanon community. They did it with class.”
Lebanon trailed 2-0 after the first inning and couldn’t get the offense going throughout the game. Austintown-Fitch added a run in the fourth inning to seal the game.
Lebanon pitcher Aubrey Smith and freshman pitcher Sophia Sheidler each had two strikeouts.
Kindell said the team won’t forget the significant community support this season.
“You know every time you come up here you play a Northeast Ohio school and you are typically outnumbered,” Kindell said. “But, today I did have a chance to look up in the stands and I may have seen more Lebanon people here today. I thank the Lebanon community for making the trip and supporting us. And today we didn’t get it done today but still a great experience. I’m proud of this team and proud to be the head coach.”
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