‘They’re ready to go’ — Indians make first state appearance since 1991


FAIRFIELD — Practicing light these last couple of days didn’t necessarily mean practicing easy for the Fairfield High School softball team.

There’s no denying it, the Indians have gone hard this season.

“We took the whole weekend off,” said Fairfield coach Brenda Stieger, who is in her 28th season at the helm. “That’s something I’ve really started in the last five years is making sure we take days off. I know we never did that earlier in my career. We had to go six days a week all the time.

“I’m tired. If I’m tired, they’re tired. Even though they’re young. They need a break, and they need to get away from it. They need to enjoy being a high school kid.”

The Indians are enjoying a historic season, too.

Fairfield takes on defending champion and fourth-ranked Austintown-Fitch (21-1) in a Division I state semifinal on Friday at 3 p.m. at Akron’s Firestone Stadium.

“Practice was good on Tuesday — light and fun,” Stieger said. “And when we finished after practice (Wednesday), I asked them if we needed to work on anything else.

“They looked at me and said, ‘We’re good, Coach. We’re ready.’”

The Indians (23-3) have won 10 straight and 19 of their last 20 to reach their first state appearance since 1991, when they lost to Akron Springfield 8-1 in the semifinals.

“They’re ready to go,” Stieger said. “I don’t know that another day of practice is going to do anything. At this point, another day of practice is drudgery — repetition, repetition, repetition. That’s how the week has kind of gone. We had a fun practice (Wednesday). A lot of laughs, but good hard work, too.”


Fairfield has continually leaned on its motto ever since Stieger took over the program.

“I think all coaches have catch phrases of some sort,” she said. “We have ours — DPT. Our catch phrase couldn’t be any truer than it is right now.”

Dedication. Pride. Tradition.

“We have kids that are dedicated to the program, along with the coaching staff,” Stieger said. “We have a lot of pride in our program with how we act and how we behave when we’re in uniform. It’s how we conduct ourselves. Then you add in the tradition of winning.

“Fairfield softball has been a great program for a very, very long time. That’s where that kind of came from.”

Stieger said her players have invested in the motto, and that it’s noticeable in team huddles.

“Even with the kids, you know they’re committed to it,” Stieger said. “We usually say ‘Team’ when we dismiss from practice or games. They’ll sometimes want to say ‘DPT.’

“I think it just strives us to get better. It means something to them because they ask to do that at different times of the season. It’s special to them.”


Megan Spence, Fairfield’s junior pitcher, has only surrendered eight earned runs in five postseason outings. She has a Greater Miami Conference-best 1.40 ERA and sits second in total wins (14) and strikeouts (141).

Junior center fielder Ava Hensley has reached on a hit in nine straight games, including a 4 for 4 performance in the Indians’ 11-5 district semifinal win over Ross. Hensley bats a team-best .465 and has five home runs.

“A lot of the girls have played together since they were young,” Stieger said. “They’re community kids. They’re friends in high school. That’s season after season. We’ve had great teams, and that’s where the tradition part comes into play.”

Senior Abby Stanfield (.443), sophomore Adelyn Huey (.443), sophomore Madi Miller (.405), senior Jillian Huey (.400) and senior Karley Clark (.398) also pace the Indians offensively.


Sydnie Watts tossed a complete game and struck out 13 in Austintown-Fitch’s 8-2 regional title victory over top-ranked Walsh Jesuit.

The Falcons collected 13 hits in their regional final win, with Kylie Folkwein and Watts adding home runs at the plate.

“All teams at this point have really strong, steady defenses — making plays game after game,” Stieger said. “They’re not getting rattled, even if they get behind or down.”


Fairfield is the only unranked team in the D-I Final Four. … No. 3 Whitehouse Anthony Wayne (29-1) plays No. 2 Pataskala Watkins Memorial (30-1) in the other state semifinal at 5:30 p.m. Friday at Firestone Stadium. … The state final will be played on Saturday at 6:15 p.m. at Firestone Stadium.


“The enthusiasm on the bench has been absolutely great,” Stieger said. “Sometimes I don’t know if I’m heard because they’re all so loud and supportive of each other, and that makes a huge difference.”

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