By Rob Kiser
The Piqua softball team is undefeated in Ohio.
And while winning an 8-7 thriller over Vandalia-Butler in nine innings Monday may have been a great way to bounce back from an 0-5 trip to Florida, Lady Indians coach Rick Claprood never really had any concerns.
“Those teams we played in Florida, all went well beyond their high school seasons,” he said. “They all were teams that went deep in their postseason tournaments. We are a young team. We are just trying to get where we need to be.”
And Claprood got exactly what he needed from freshman Kennedy Fashner to help secure the win.
Fashner was 5-for-5 at the plate with two doubles and two RBIs and pitched five scoreless innings in relief to get the win.
“Kennedy (Fashner) had a really good game for a freshman,” Claprood said.
And a classic at bat by Kathy Young in the bottom of the ninth broke a 7-7 deadlock and gave Piqua the win.
With one out and the bases loaded, Young drew a walk on a full-count pitch to force Paige Hinkle in and end the game.
She had fouled the previous pitch off before drawing the walk.
“It was a great at bat,” Claprood said. “She battled to stay alive up there.”
Piqua had gotten off to a good start in the game, taking a 3-0 lead in the bottom of the first.
Hannah Anderson had a RBI single and Mariah Blankenship had a RBI fielder’s choice, while Fashner also singled and Piqua took advantage of four Vandalia errors.
“We feel pretty good when we have that group at the plate,” Claprood said.
Vandalia closed the deficit to 3-2 in the second, taking advantage of three walks and a double by Morgan Wright. Kylie Trissell limited the damage by making a running catch to end the inning with two runners on.
“We have a lot of kids who can make plays out there,” Claprood said.
Piqua made it 4-2 in the third when Paige Hinkle singled and scored on Fashner’s double.
“Paige (Hinkle) is another freshman that had a good game,” Claprood said. “She had two hits.”
But, Vandalia-Butler broke through with five runs in the fourth to go up 7-4. Amber White had a two-run double and Wright capped the rally with a two-run homer.
But, Fashner would take the mound in the fifth — and Vandalia would not score again.
The southpaw pitched out of a second and third with no outs jam in the sixth, getting two strikeouts and a pop-out and got out of a bases-loaded two outs situation in the eighth inning.
Piqua shortstop Lily Stewart got the first two outs, showing good range at the key position. That became big when the next three batters singled, before a ground out to Young at second ended the rally.
“Lily (Stewart) is a senior who hasn’t played since she was a freshman,” Claprood said. “She has good speed. She is a good athlete who can go to her left or to her right.”
At the same time, Piqua began to cut into the Butler lead.
Young slugged a two-run doubles in the fifth to cut the deficit to 7-6, with Blankenship and Hinkle scoring.
“That was a big at bat for Kathy (Young),” Claprood said. “She had been struggling to stay behind the ball.”
Then in the sixth, Piqua played small-ball to tie it.
After Sarah Marion doubled, pinch-runner Haleigh Beougher moved to third on Anderson’s fielder’s choice and scored on Blankenship’s sacrifice fly.
“That was exactly what we needed,” Claprood said. “Sarah (Marion) has been swinging the bat really well and again we feel good about that part of the order. Mariah (Blankenship) was on fire in Florida and that was a huge run to tie it.”
The score remained that way until the home ninth inning.
Blankenship started the rally with a walk, but a pinch-runner was thrown out stealing.
Hinkle singled and went to second on a wild pitch. She move to third on Fashner’s fifth hit, a single.
Stewart then hit a slow roller towards third. Knowing a throw to first would allow Hinkle to score, Vandalia elected not to throw the ball and the bases were loaded, setting the stage for Young’s game-winning walk.
Anderson had three hits for the Indians as Vandalia pitcher Sydney Theobald pitched an 12-hitter, striking out six and walking six.
Blankenship pitched the first four innings for Piqua, allowing seven hits, striking out five and walking five.
Fashner pitched the final five innings, allowing three hits, striking out three and not walking a batter.
“She threw the way we need her to throw,” Claprood said. “She did a good job.”
Now, Piqua will look to extend its perfect record in Ohio Wednesday, when it travels to Vandalia-Butler for the return matchup.
Rob Kiser is Sports Editor for the Daily Call. He can be reached at (937) 451-3334.