Fairfield uses late offensive burst for comeback win over Ross in D-I district semifinals

This story was updated at 10:05 a.m. on Tuesday, May 14, 2024

FAIRFIELD — The Fairfield High School softball team got an offensive burst that ultimately extended its postseason.

Ava Hensley went 4 for 4, Karley Clark blasted a home run and the Indians scored 11 straight to beat the Ross Rams 11-5 in a Division I district semifinal on Monday night.

“In this game, there’s always a chance,” Fairfield coach Brenda Stieger said. “All it takes is a ball to drop in somewhere and somebody to make good contact.”

Early on, the Indians struggled to do that against Ross freshman pitcher Paige Baker. Fairfield was held scoreless and had just three hits the first four innings before its offense came alive in the fifth and sixth.

The Indians (20-3), winners of seven straight and 16 of their last 17, face Kings in a district final at 5 p.m. Thursday at Princeton. Fairfield beat Ross 12-2 during the regular season.

“Oh, my gosh. This team, I don’t know how we do it,” said Clark, a senior catcher. “I’m so thankful that we can do it. But we don’t get down. We don’t stop fighting until it’s over.

“Our team is very good this year at just keeping it going and keeping the energy up and not getting down on ourselves no matter how down we are.”

The Rams (15-9) got an RBI single by lone senior Myrissa Combs in the top of the first. Emilee Peters singled to lead off the top of the second, and three walks by Fairfield starter Megan Spence brought Peters across the plate to give Ross a 2-0 advantage.

The Rams added to their lead with a three-run third inning highlighted by hits from Baker, Peters and Meadow Webb. Baker struck out nine through four innings.

“Paige went out there, and she did her thing,” Ross coach Christi Luckett said. “I’m super proud of her and didn’t expect anything less.”

Fairfield heated up the bats in the fifth inning. Hensley had an RBI double, Abby Stanfield had a two-RBI double and Clark singled to bring home Stanfield to pull it to within 5-4.

Abby Leugers singled in Madi Miller and Clark to give the Indians their first lead of the game at 6-5.

“Abby Leugers coming up there at the end as our No. 8 hitter and getting on base — that was big,” Stieger said. “The kids just started to believe in themselves.”

Sophomore Rylie Lynch relieved Baker in the sixth, when Fairfield started to pile it on.

“It kind of came where they had gone around enough times in the lineup, it was time we had to put someone else in,” Luckett said. “They were getting (Baker) pretty well timed up. Can’t just leave her hanging out there. Gotta help her out, so that’s what we did.”

Clark dropped a three-run homer to cap off Fairfield’s six-run sixth inning.

“Karley hasn’t had a bomb like that in a while this year,” Stieger said. “I always think when she’s coming up, this is the time she breaks free here. That was the one. I couldn’t be more proud of her.”

“I’ve struggled a lot more this year with my hitting than I have in the past,” Clark noted. “Then going up, I was 0 for 2 before I got one in the gap. Then my next at-bat, hitting it over. I just told myself to get out of my head and hit like I know how I do. The ball did the rest.”

Miller (2 for 3, two runs), Clark (2 for 4, four RBI, two runs) and Leugers (2 for 4, two RBI) complemented Hensley’s four-hit, two-RBI, two-run performance at the plate for the Indians.

Jillian Huey replaced Spence in the third inning and held Ross scoreless the rest of way while walking just one.

Combs (2 for 4), Commins (2 for 4) and Peters (2 for 2, two runs) had multi-hit games for the Rams.

“Ultimately, they’re a really good team,” Luckett said. “We let them stay in it. That one’s going to be tough to swallow.

“Very proud,” Luckett added of her squad’s season overall. “All year this team’s been hearing how young they are and it’s probably not your year. They’re so young, don’t worry about. Even with some of the losses, ‘Yeah, but they’re young.’ That’s great, and they are, which makes me happy. Because guess what? They’re back next year.”

Lockett said Combs’ leadership and contribution to the team will be greatly missed.

“This one’s going to be hard — this one,” Luckett said. “She’s just really special to me. Like kind of one of my own kids. I thought I was holding it together fine until her little sister (Juilianna) started crying because that was the last time they’d play ball together. So that one choked me up.

“Other than that, they’re all coming back. So I’m proud of them. I’m proud they made it this far. I’m proud of how hard they worked. This is them. This has nothing to do with me. This is 100% them. Going out, they had something they wanted to prove. I feel like they did, and I’m super proud of them.”

Combs recently graduated from EMT school and will move on to play college softball at Murray State.

“That one was tough,” said Combs, a four-year starter at catcher. “I’m back there, and I’m watching them work so hard. I can see the fight in them. They just had to keep going, and they did. They kept going. They kept fighting. They didn’t let anything discourage them — any of the plays, the calls, the hits. They just kept going, and they just kept fighting. I’m just so proud of each one of them.

“This was a really special season for me. I got to play with my sister. All of the girls, they’re like my little siblings to me. They’re all my sister’s friends, so I’ve watched them all grow up and do their thing. I was their senior. If they needed somebody to come to, I was going to be there for them because I love them all so much.”

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