Regional softball: Lebanon striving for better outcome against West

Lakota West pitcher Megan Brankamp (13) deals to the plate during a game against visiting Lakota East on April 11. GREG LYNCH/STAFF
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Lakota West pitcher Megan Brankamp (13) deals to the plate during a game against visiting Lakota East on April 11. GREG LYNCH/STAFF

Lakota West High School softball coach Keith Castner is sure the Lebanon Warriors have the last meeting tucked away in their heads. And posted somewhere in their locker room.

Lakota West 3, Lebanon 2

Riding a solo home run from Allie Cummins in the bottom of the sixth and a sacrifice fly that scored Megan Brankamp, the Firebirds knocked Lebanon — then the defending state runner-up — out of the Division I sectional at Centerville last year.

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“We had the upper hand that day,” Castner said, “and hopefully we can do it again.”

On Wednesday, the two teams return to the scene of the crime.

Lebanon, 27-3 and the top-ranked team in the state, meets 19-10 West at 2 p.m. in a regional semifinal at CHS.

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Lebanon has steamrolled through the tournament, outscoring opponents 66-3 in winning all four tournament games by run rule.

“I feel like we are playing pretty well,” Warriors coach Brian Kindell said. “We wouldn’t be where we are if we weren’t playing well. I do feel like we are moving forward every day, getting better and working on the things we need to improve on.”

The loss to West snapped a string of five consecutive regional-final appearances for the Warriors.

In addition to having players back who experienced the loss to West, Lebanon also returns a handful of key contributors to past regional tournament appearances.

“We have plenty of experience on this team,” Kindell said. “The more big games you play in, you become more relaxed and the game slows down so you can focus on little things and your job and not the moment.”

West also returns a lot of experience from the squad which fell to Lakota East in the regional semis, including Cummins and Brankamp.

While the Warriors have rolled through the tournament, West had to battle for an 11-inning, 7-6 win over state-ranked Milford in the district finals.

“What was great was that we kept fighting to get that run and then we stopped them,” Castner said. “We had a lot of girls that knew they just beat the No. 5 team, a team that had 26 wins. They knew right away they were going to be playing Lebanon. They know those (Lebanon) girls and play summer ball with them. It was kind of neat at practice because they know them well enough to suggest what to do. It is like having coaches on the field.”

While Cummins gets a lot of the notoriety, Kindell sees a lot of his Warriors in their opponent.

“They have a very balanced lineup,” he said. “Allie is a talented player, but I see a lot of talent 1-9. With the balance of this team, I see a lot of those things in Lakota West.”

Brankamp will most likely get the ball in the circle for West, but the Firebirds may see a combination of Alexis Strother, Taylor Lewis and Kat Frank from the Warriors.

“To be honest, we could say who is starting, but that doesn’t mean who is finishing,” Kindell said. “We are going to do what we need to do to win the game. If a certain team style doesn’t match up, we could switch up. All three are different. As good as they are, we may have to throw two or three to be successful so they don’t see the same pitcher two or three times.”

Mason and Springboro will meet in Wednesday’s second regional semifinal at 5 p.m. It wil be the second Greater Miami Conference vs. Greater Western Ohio Conference matchup of the day.

“We feel these are two of the top leagues in the state,” Castner said. “It is nice knowing one of our leagues — and I hope it’s a GMC school — will get there, and I hope it will be us.”

The regional title will be decided Saturday at noon at Centerville.

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