‘Never say die’ — Lakota East rallies for 10 runs in final at-bat to claim district championship

Thunderhawks will face Fairfield in regional semifinals

MASON — Leah Arnett had a glimpse of her senior season on Lakota East High School’s softball team coming to an end.

What she didn’t foresee happening was the Thunderhawks putting together the comeback of all comebacks.

Lakota East rallied for 10 runs in an unprecedented seventh inning to beat Fairmont 12-11 and capture a Division I district championship on Thursday night at Mason.

“It shows that I think hard work beats talent,” said Arnett, who leads off and plays center field. “As you guys probably know, the last three seasons since my freshman year, we haven’t been good. We’ve got a lot of good freshmen and a lot of good seniors who have developed over the years.

“It shows that we’ve worked hard, not only this year, but the past couple of years to really step up.”

The Thunderhawks (22-8) are district champions for the first time since 2019, when they finished 30-2 and lost to Louisville 14-10 in nine innings in the state final.

Lakota East has won 13 of its last 15 and will face Fairfield in the regional semifinals on Wednesday at 2 p.m. at Mason.

“Never say die,” Thunderhawks coach Kelley Haiber said. “Just shows you how gritty they are. It’s just like what we said over there. We said, ‘Screw it. Let’s see what happens.’ We had to just get it to the next person, and good things kept happening.”

Good things weren’t happening to Lakota East for most of the game.

Fairmont scored five runs in the top of the first that was capped off by Emma Wright’s three-run double off Thunderhawks freshman starter Kaleigh Crawford.

The Firebirds (19-10) added a run in the second, two in the third, two in the fourth and another in the sixth to compliment freshman starting pitcher Jaylin Turner’s early performance.

“We were just trying to see the pitching selection,” Lakota East senior Halina Schulte said. “That was our biggest thing for the whole game. We did film, and I knew what she was going to throw. We just had to catch up on it. We’re not used to having someone throw 65 at us.”

Abrie Schulte reached on an error that allowed Halina Schulte to score, pulling the Thunderhawks to within 6-1 in the top of the third.

Amber Munoz singled in the top of the fifth and was later brought home on Abrie Schulte’s single with two outs to cut Fairmont’s lead to 10-2. Hannah Perdue then homered in the bottom of the sixth to give the Firebirds an 11-2 advantage before the Thunderhawks made their seventh-inning surge.

“You know, just a few,” Arnett said when asked if there were any doubts about a Lakota East comeback. “After the first inning, we didn’t have the best start. The pitcher on the other team was pretty good. We knew that coming in. But once we got to her, we got our confidence up when the time was right.”

Turner allowed just three hits and had eight strikeouts the first six innings, but Lakota East’s top of the lineup was waiting in the top half of the seventh.

Arnett doubled, Halina Schulte singled and Munoz singled to score Arnett and Schulte to make it 11-4 to start the seventh. Hailey Hensley was hit by a pitch and Abrie Schulte reached on an error to score Munoz making it 11-5.

Isabella Rodriguez popped out for Lakota East’s first out before Crawford and Yorie Schulte both doubled — bringing in three more runs to make it 11-8.

Aubrey Morefield relieved Turner in the circle, and Morefield walked Lilly Banks. Arnett knocked in Yorie Schulte to cut it to 11-9 with one out.

Banks and Arnett scored on walks to tie it before Rodriguez drew another walk to bring home Halina Schulte for the eventual game winner.

“This is the best game I’ve ever been a part of — ever,” Schulte said. “I’m on a very competitive travel ball team, but this is the best thing that could have ever happened — especially for my senior year with my sisters.”

Crawford finished it in the circle in the bottom half of the seventh.

“They’re super competitive,” Haiber said. “We don’t ever get down on any one of our errors. That stuff is going to happen. We just move on to the next play. There’s no reason to dwell on it.

“That was as bad as we can play, and that was as good as we can play. It just worked out for us.”


Leanna Lawson knocked in Ava Hensley for the game-winning run and Fairfield beat Kings to capture a Division I district championship at Princeton on Thursday night.

The Indians (21-3) have won 17 of their last 18.

Fairfield junior Megan Spence pitched a complete game, struck out six, gave up an earned run and walked just one.

Karley Clark (two walks, double), Adelyn Huey (single, run), Jillian Huey (single) and Abby Stanfield (two walks, RBI) helped the Indians at the plate.

The game went scoreless through four innings until Stanfield brought home Adelyn Huey on a ground out in the bottom of the fifth to put Fairfield on top 1-0. Kings tied it up in the top of the sixth on a Grace Parkhurst sacrifice fly.

Spence set the Knights down 1-2-3 in the top of the seventh before the Indians ended it on Lawson’s game-winning base hit.

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