LIBERTY TWP. — Hamilton High School’s Steve Heckman was reminded Thursday why he’s still in the dugout. It was because of coaching this year’s group of seniors and having the chance to compete for a district title.
Lebanon scratched a run across the plate in the bottom of the eighth inning to knock off Hamilton 1-0 in a defense-heavy Division I district final at Lakota East.
The Warriors (26-3), who have won 23 in a row and reached the district finals for a third straight year, stymied Big Blue’s best season since 2008.
“This is why I still do this — to get this opportunity to be at this place,” said Heckman, who praised seniors Jaycee Taylor, Katelyn Polido, Maira Morgan and Payge Iglesia.
Hamilton, which got a gutsy performance from freshman pitcher Emili Schappacher, finished the season at 17-8.
“They’ve done everything that I’ve asked,” Heckman said. “I’ve known them for years — waiting on them to come through. They brought a little life to our school.
“Our conference is pretty good,” Heckman added. “We’d go toe to toe with anybody. I’m just super proud of them. I’m sad for them, but as a coach, I’m just so proud. This is why I’m still doing this.”
Lebanon, ranked sixth in the final Ohio High School Fastpitch Softball Coaches Association poll, moves on to face Miamisburg in a regional semifinal on Wednesday, May 24 at 2 p.m. at Mason.
“It’s been hard on our seniors, hard on a lot of returning players, but we stepped it up today,” Warriors coach Brian Kindell said referring to falling in the district finals two seasons prior. “We found a rather uncharacteristic way for us to win a game.”
Schappacher held Lebanon, the Eastern Cincinnati Conference’s best hitting team with 25 home runs and a .428 average, to only three hits heading into extra innings. Schappacher retired 13 out the first 14 Warrior batters.
“She pitched a great game,” Kindell said of Schappacher. “We were forced to play lights out defense today. We backed our pitcher up who threw great. We backed our pitchers up all day with the glove. We eventually found a way to win. Winning games in May is never easy.”
Kindell told his squad prior to Thursday’s district final to expect a 1-0 game.
“It held up,” he said.
Ashley Simko walked to start the bottom of the eighth and reached third following a Jane Luezinger base hit and a Reagan Vunak intentional walk. That loaded the bases with one out.
Juliana Gonzalez stepped up to the plate and singled in Simko for the game winner.
Polido and Iglesia led Big Blue with two hits apiece off Lebanon senior starter Audrey Smith, who had five strikeouts. Freshman Sophia Sheidler came in on relief to strike out the final three Big Blue batters.
“The big thing about the beginning of this season was our energy. That set the tone for us,” Polido said. “We knew that once our energy got down, we weren’t going to play as well. We had to bring it back up. We always had to keep it up throughout the game. That’s what really helped us out throughout the season — having energy in the dugout, energy in the field.”
FAIRFIELD 5, CENTERVILLE 2
MASON — Fairfield came back from a 2-0 deficit and scored five straight runs to capture a Division I district title on Thursday.
The Indians (19-5) have won four in a row and play Milford on Wednesday, May 24 at 5 p.m. at Mason.
CARLISLE 13, ARCANUM 7
VERSAILLES — Carlisle has won 23 in a row, including Thursday’s Division III district title victory over Arcanum. It’s the third district championship in a row for the Indians.
Freshman Mya Howard had seven RBIs to pace Carlisle (23-0), which advances to the regional semifinals to face Miami East on Wednesday, May 24 at 2 p.m. at Centerville.
LEBANON 11, MIDDLETOWN 0, 6 INN.
LEBANON — Lebanon only allowed three hits against Middletown in a Division I sectional victory on Thursday.
The Warriors (20-8) have won four in a row and move on to face Kings in a district semifinal at 5 p.m. on Tuesday, May 23.
The Middies (12-15) graduate seniors RJ Anderson, Braylon Bailey, Lucas Dingledine, Cohen Hackney, Isaiah Highley, Joe Kirby, Brock Sorrell and Noah Terrell.
OAK HILLS 6, FAIRFIELD 3
FAIRFIELD — Oak Hills scored two runs in the fourth, fifth and seventh innings to upset Fairfield in a Division I sectional contest on Thursday.
The Indians (19-8) graduate seniors Garrett Berter, Brady Black, Braydon Candella, Ty Cunningham, Braylin Hailstones, Josh Isaacs, Connor Raquet and Tymere Watson.
BADIN 25, MOUNT HEALTHY 0, 5 INN.
HAMILTON — Badin collected 18 hits in a Division II sectional rout of Mount Healthy on Thursday.
The Rams were led by Austin Buckle (4 for 4, 3 RBI, 3 runs) and Chase Luebbe (3 for 4, 3 RBIs, 3 runs). Badin had eight other players reach the hit column.
Badin (26-1) has won seven in a row and faces Reading in a district semifinal on Tuesday, May 23 at 5 p.m. at Alumni Field.
PRINCETON 7, TALAWANDA 1
SHARONVILLE — Talawanda saw its season come to an end in a Division I sectional loss to Princeton on Thursday.
The Brave (16-12) graduate seniors Connor Brosey, Blake Detherage, Jake Francis, Max Mesler, Trevor Norris, Noah Prewitt, Connor Puckett, Logan Smith and Ben Zazycki.
MILFORD 13, HAMILTON 1, 5 INN.
MILFORD — Milford scored eight runs in the second inning on its way to beat Hamilton in a Division I sectional contest on Thursday.
Big Blue got hits from Cournell Bennett, Nick Brosius, Dyllan Grindle and Jordan Zapata.
Hamilton (9-18) graduates seniors Davis Avery, Casey Brann, Lake Cundiff, Ray New, Ethan Stone and Zapata.
KINGS 13, LAKOTA EAST 3, 6 INN.
KINGS MILLS — Lakota East took a 3-2 lead into the bottom of the fifth before Kings reeled off 11 straight in a Division I sectional contest on Thursday.
Dylan Rieck had a two-RBI base hit for the Thunderhawks (11-16), who graduate seniors Liam Bonfield, Nick Damen, Carson French, Braeden Fry, Ethan Gagliardo, Jack Hetterich, Wyatt Kleinmann, Connor Munro, Sam Pennix, Michael Rothchild, Danny Sergent, Diego Sergent and Drew Tower.
MONROE 4, CENTERVILLE 3
CENTERVILLE — Brady Heagan pitched a complete game for Monroe, which defeated Centerville in a Division I sectional contest on Thursday.
Joe Tarin (1 for 3), Tyler Gannon (sac fly, RBI), Griffin Ballard (1 for 4), AJ Beason (1 for 2) and Landen Wynn (1 for 3, RBI) paced Monroe at the plate.
The Hornets (22-7), who have won nine out of their last 10 games and four in a row, move on to face Fairmont on Tuesday at 5 p.m. in a district semifinal.
FENWICK 7, NEW RICHMOND 1
FRANKLIN — Fenwick scored six runs in the second inning on its way to a Division II sectional victory on Thursday.
Robby Adams (2 for 4, 2 RBI) and Abram Grandstaff (2 for 4, 2 runs) paced the Falcons at the plate. Carson Sova pitched five innings, struck out three and only gave up three hits and a run to earn the victory on the mound. Joey Maier came in on relief in the final two innings to secure the win.
Fenwick (17-11) moves on to face Indian Hill in a district semifinal on Tuesday, May 23.
FRANKLIN 11, URBANA 9
FRANKLIN — Franklin never trailed and scored a run in every inning against Urbana for a Division II sectional victory on Thursday.
Bryce Swoll got the win on the mound, scored three runs and had three stolen bases for the Wildcats. Tyler Murray (double, triple), Hunter Prickett (3 hits, 3 RBIs, 2 runs), Connor Monk (2 hits, 2 RBIs), Rylan Monk (double, 2 RBIs), Kevin Denry (double), Jaxon Rudd (hit) and Aiden Standifer (hit, RBI) also contributed offensively for Franklin. Wildcats starting pitcher Jordan Hipsher tossed 5.1 innings and struck out six batters.
Franklin (17-11) moves on to face Bellbrook in a district semifinal at 5 p.m. on Thursday.