LAGRANGE – Neither team was able to put together much of anything for almost six full innings. After Wawasee notched its lone run in the sixth, Lakeland stunned the Warriors with four runs in the seventh to claim a 4-1 win at the Lakeland Softball Sectional Tuesday night.
LAKELAND 4, WAWASEE 1
Everything was moving along swimmingly for the Warriors, owning a 1-0 lead over Lakeland with just three outs to go in the sectional semis. Wawasee got its only run in the bottom of the sixth when freshman Abi Smith crushed an opposite field homer off the big red scoreboard in right.
That ‘thunk’ was Lakeland’s season as it hadn’t shown much of any life as Wawasee pitcher Kiaundra Olson was throwing a whale of a game.
That ‘thunk’ must have woken up the Lakeland dugout.
Kendall Moore took the third pitch she saw from Olson to open the seventh and crushed a homer to left center to tie the game at one. Hannah Harris followed up with a solid single to center, then perhaps the play that defined the inning for Wawasee occurred, when a sacrifice bunt by Ali Sines was fielded, but the throw by Graceanne Kerlin sailed into right field, moving both runners up a base.
Olson would get an out at home on a fielder’s choice, but a walk to Makayla Mast loaded the bases. Chloe Gust would drive in the go-ahead run on a roller that Faith Swihart couldn’t get to Kerlin in time. The big blow came from Bailey Hartsough, who launched a pitch off the base of the left field wall for two runs, and Lakeland was shockingly in front by three runs.
“I thought that was it,” stated Wawasee head coach Chloe McRobbie of entering the seventh with the lead. “I was like three up, three down, all you have to do is keep the ball low and that game was ours. But when a team wants it bad enough, that’s what happens.”
Added Lakeland head coach Lauren Harris, “I don’t know what changed for us, but I guess the saying ‘hitting is contagious’ works here. Once Kendall hit that homer, the girls just believed in themselves. Kendall hasn’t had a lot of opportunities as a varsity player this year. For us to throw her in and put her in to bat in a pressure situation like that, she had a huge moment for us. I think having that weight lifted off of us after that homer really allowed our kids to lock in, see the pitch they wanted, and make some things happen.”
Elise Edwards showed some moxie in the bottom of the seventh as Wawasee (14-11) went down quietly. Edwards’ final strikeout of Olson was her 11th of the game, pushing Lakeland (16-8) into the championship game. Edwards allowed just three hits and a walk in the complete game.
Olson only gave up five hits until the wheels came off in the seventh, finishing with eight hits allowed, three walks and just one strikeout.
“She’s a really tough pitcher and she does her job. But we talk about missing just one spot in a game can make all the difference,” McRobbie said of Olson. “When we do miss our spot, we normally reap the consequences and that was one of those examples. Normally it’s OK because our sticks are on fire, but Lakeland has got a pretty good pitcher and we didn’t make enough adjustments at the plate to get as many hits as they did.”
Lakeland played without its star, Keirstin Roose, who finished sixth in discus at the Marion Girls Track Regional Tuesday night. Roose is batting .557 with eight homers and 42 RBIs this season and should be back in the Laker lineup Thursday for the championship against the Falcons.
FAIRFIELD 8, WEST NOBLE 0
Fairfield didn’t let West Noble hang around, putting away the Chargers early.
Chloe Dell mashed a two-run homer in the first, then the Falcons tacked on a run in the third, two in the fourth, two more in the sixth and one more in the seventh to eliminate its Northeast Corner Conference rivals.
Brooke Sanchez added a two-run homer and Bobbie Freese also went yard as Fairfield mashed 10 hits. Sanchez drove in three runs total and Freese reached base three times to pace the Falcons.
Sarah Shank got more than enough run support, holding West Noble to just one hit. The Chargers, which upset the Falcons 4-2 earlier this month, never got to Shank, who struck out 12 and allowed just a first-inning single to Kourtnie Jones. Tori Franklin walked twice and reached second on both occasions, but that was the deepest West Noble would get on the scorecard.
Kacee Click took the loss, giving up five runs in 3.2 innings of work for the Chargers.
Fairfield (17-9) and Lakeland will battle Thursday night for the title. West Noble, which beat Tippecanoe Valley 5-2 Monday in the sectional opener, bows out at 11-13 overall.