Prep softball: Schaeffer’s long ball helps Fairfield rally past Kings

FAIRFIELD — Wednesday just wasn’t shaping up to be Fairfield High School’s day on the softball diamond.

An error led to two Kings Knights first-inning runs in their Division I sectional game on the Indians’ home field at Creekside Middle School.

A one-out, bases-loaded line drive turned into an unassisted double play in the bottom of the inning. Fairfield hit into another double play in the second and saw a runner called out for interference in the fourth.

But the fifth-seeded Indians shook off the misfortunes, scoring three runs in the fourth and — after Kings scored twice to regain a one-run lead in the fifth — three more in the fifth, capped by senior designated player Maddie Schaeffer’s no-doubt, two-run homer to right-center field that provided a 6-4 win over 11th-seeded Kings.

“We knew we were the (higher-seeded) team,” said Schaeffer, who’s in her first varsity season. “We just had to go out and prove it.”

Fairfield, which has won six straight and 12 of 13, advances to meet seventh-seeded West Clermont on Monday in a district semifinal at Princeton, but the Indians also still have business to take care of in the Greater Miami Conference.

They are scheduled to play Mason at home on Thursday in a game matching two teams tied for second, each with a 14-3 conference record. Lakota West was lurking right behind at 13-4, courtesy of an emotional, marathonish 10-9 Fairfield win over the Firebirds on Tuesday that lasted every bit of 2 1/2 hours.

West Clermont advanced with a 3-2 win over 15th-seeded Wilmington. The Indians and Wolves, who will be the second consecutive Eastern Cincinnati Conference team Fairfield will face in the tournament, did not play in the regular season.

Indians coach Brenda Stieger went into Wednesday’s game concerned about the toll Tuesday’s win might’ve taken on her team.

“We were certainly worried,” she said. “(Lakota West) had run-ruled us earlier this season, and we really wanted that game. It was back and forth. We played yesterday. Is it going to hurt us? Is it going to help us? It took us a while to get going today, but we knew from yesterday that we know how to fight back.”

Kings senior Courtney Michalak just missed hitting a three-run homer in the top of the first, but her drive off the top of the chain-link fence down the left-field line was more than enough to drive in two unearned runs. Fairfield senior catcher Natalie Elliott lined directly to Knights sophomore third baseman Morgan Hunter, who tagged out Indians’ junior shortstop Maiah Hodge before she could scramble back to third, stifling a first-inning rally.

Luck turned Fairfield’s way in the fourth, even with the runner’s interference call that left the Indians with a runner on first and two outs. Senior first baseman Kayla Wooton was hit by a pitch, pushing Schaeffer to second base, and junior center fielder Karlee Mills drove in Fairfield’s first run with a single to right. Wooton and Mills scored on a throwing error to give the Indians the lead.

Kings regained the 4-3 lead on senior right fielder Julianne Smith’s two-run single to right in the fifth off senior right-hander Lindsey Mitchell, but the Indians responded with a two-out, nobody-on rally.

Senior third baseman Hannah Miller doubled to right and scored on Elliott’s single to left — almost exactly the same kind of line drive to virtually the same spot that produced the first-inning double play. That set the stage for Schaeffer’s fourth home run of the season, an opposite-field shot on a first-pitch, middle-out fastball.

“This is my job,” she said. “I get the hits. The defense did its job. I had to do mine.”

Mitchell (12-2) allowed seven hits and four runs, two earned, with one strikeout and no walks in five innings. Miller pitched the last two innings, allowing two hits.

Kings 200-020-0—4-9-2

Fairfield 000-330-x—6-8-1

WP — Lindsey Mitchell (12-2); LP — Jasmine Lantz (6-3); S — Hannah Miller (1); HR — F: Maddie Schaeffer. Records: K 17-9, F 18-4

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