Lakota West coach Keith Castner encourages his team during last June’s Division I state championship game against Massillon Perry at Firestone Stadium in Akron. Perry won 11-1. NICK GRAHAM/STAFF

Prep softball: West rallies past Milford to earn district-final berth

MONTGOMERY — Lakota West hadn’t seen many left-handed pitchers this prep softball season, so figuring out Milford’s Sam Boothby on Monday took a few innings. Four, to be exact.

The Firebirds finally solved the Boothby riddle in the fifth, pushing across three runs to overcome a 2-0 deficit and edge the Eagles 3-2 in a Division I district semifinal at Sycamore.

Senior center fielder Casey Bramble drove in the tying run with a sharp one-hopper that flicked off Boothby’s glove and was fielded by sophomore shortstop Olivia Craycraft, who had no play while freshman catcher Kendall Forren was scoring the tying run from third base.

An attempted double steal went awry and cost the Firebirds a runner at third base, but Bramble ended up on second base and scored the go-ahead on sophomore shortstop Ariah “Yaya” Peregrina’s opposite-field line drive to right.

“We haven’t faced left-handers that much,” said Peregrina, the only Firebird with two hits. “That was one of my first times. We were having trouble with her (outside) pitches. I’ve struggled with them all season. The coaches work with me at practice.”

The win keeps alive fourth-seeded West’s hopes of reaching the state championship game for the second straight season.

The Firebirds are scheduled to continue their push in Friday at Lakota East in a 5 p.m. district championship game against fifth-seeded Fairfield. They split during the Greater Miami Conference campaign.

“It doesn’t matter (who we play),” West coach Keith Castner said. “At this stage of the tournament, you know you’re going to face good teams.”

Sixth-seeded Milford went into Monday’s game having won two straight games and 12 of the last 13, with the only loss coming against Division II power Clinton-Massie.

The Eagles led 2-0 four batters into the game after freshman center fielder Taylor Stemmerding singled with one out and sophomore third baseman Emily Allphin drove the first pitch she saw from West freshman right-hander K.K. Mathis 210 feet over the left-field fence.

Mathis (11-5) regrouped to allow seven hits and two walks with 10 strikeouts.

“She’s tough, strong-willed and works hard,” Castner said. “She and Forren work well together.”

West’s leadoff batters reached in two of the first four innings, but the Firebirds couldn’t capitalize. Senior designated player Cameron Wesley started the fifth-inning rally with a single to center. One out later, she went to third on Forren’s single to right and scored on freshman left fielder Belle Hummel’s grounder up the middle that was bobbled by Craycraft for an error.

“We believe in each other and we trust in each other,” Peregrina said about West’s comeback. “We never stopped cheering for each other.”

The Eagles got their leadoff runner on in the sixth, but the next batter popped up a bunt. Forren caught it and doubled the runner off first base, which became a key out when the next batter doubled to right. Mathis ended the threat with a strikeout and got Stemmerding to pop out foul to sophomore first baseman JoJo Peregrina, who also grabbed Katelyn Reynolds’ soft liner for the final out.

“We got a couple of breaks, but we made some plays when we needed to and started running the bases like we know how,” Castner said.

Milford 200-000-0 – 2-7-1

Lakota West 000-030-x – 3-7-0

WP — K.K. Mathis (11-5); LP — Sam Boothby (13-3); HR — M: Emily Allphin. Records: M 19-7, L 20-7

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