Prep softball: Lakota West swings its way to another district title

LIBERTY TWP. — Like a second home, the Lakota West High School softball team is making a return trip to the Division I regionals.

Buoyed by a high-powered offense, the Firebirds outgunned Fairfield 8-2 for their fourth consecutive district championship Friday at Lakota East.

West (21-7) advances to play Fairmont or Harrison in a 5 p.m. regional semifinal Wednesday at Centerville. Lakota East and Mason will meet in the first semifinal at 2 p.m.

» PHOTOS: Nick Graham’s 34-image gallery from Lakota East

“We are just excited,” said Firebirds coach Keith Castner, whose team fell one win short of the state title last season. “It says a lot about these girls. They do a super job. They strive to be great. My coaching staff does a great job. I really couldn’t ask for anything better.”

Castner was quick to point out the West philosophy has become one of grind it out early and get ready for tournament success late.

“What I tell the girls at the beginning of the season is, ‘Yeah, we want to win at the beginning, but we need to be hitting our peak come tournament time,’ ” Castner said. “Hopefully we can do it again next Wednesday.”

It took a couple of innings for West to get rolling Friday, but once it did, there was little Fairfield could do.

Senior third baseman Alyssa Triner led off the third inning by getting hit by a pitch. Triner quickly stole second, advanced to third on a force and came home on Cameron Wesley’s single up the middle.

The Firebirds’ offense came alive in the fourth, putting up four runs.

Corey Weaver had a one-out single, scoring on Wesley’s triple. Wesley scored on JoJo Peregrina’s single. After Kendall Forren reached on an error, JoJo’s twin sister Ariah then plated both runs with a single.

Fairfield (19-6) struck back in the fifth when Lindsey Mitchell crushed a ball to deep center field for a two-run homer.

The Indians had runners on in the first and second innings but failed to score both times, a point Tribe coach Brenda Stieger said was huge.

Stieger was hoping the Indians would have some confidence after defeating West 10-9 last week. But they squandered opportunities, and the West offense proved too much to overcome.

“We just couldn’t get the runs across the plate, “ Stieger said. “We were coming off that big win last week. They have a high-powered offense … we gave up 23 runs to them in the regular season. It came down to putting the ball in play when we needed to, and they were much better at that today.”

Stieger applauded the effort of Mitchell, who took the loss in the circle, while also acknowledging how much her six seniors have meant to the program.

“(Mitchell) does what she always does for us,” Stieger said. “In my eyes, she is the Player of the Year in the (Greater Miami Conference), I don’t care what anyone says. Six seniors will be hard to replace. They have meant so much to us, and those gaps they leave will be hard to replace.”

JoJo Perregrina added a second RBI in the fifth inning while sister Ariah added another in the sixth for West.

“We are hitting the ball and we found a way to do it,” Castner said. “We beat a good team tonight. We did a good job getting runners in and our defense did a good job.”

Firebirds freshman pitcher K.K. Mathis yielded seven hits, but worked her way out of serious trouble in earning her 12th win.

Castner had high praise for his freshman catcher, Forren, as well as the sophomore Perregrina twins.

“The twins are doing a great job for us,” Castner said. “They just hit.”

Fairfield 000-020-0—2-8-2

Lakota West 010-412-x—8-13-1

WP — K.K. Mathis (12-5); LP — Lindsey Mitchell (13-3); HR — F: Mitchell. Records: F 19-6, L 21-7

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