Top-ranked Lebanon pulls off stunning 14-13 win over West in regional

Ashley West was one of the few players who hadn’t done much hitting when she stepped to the plate in the bottom of the seventh inning Wednesday.

Then the Lebanon High School sophomore got in the act.

West’s two-out, two-run single to left field capped a five-run rally as the top-ranked Warriors pulled off an extraordinary 14-13 victory over Lakota West in a Division I regional softball semifinal at Centerville.

PHOTOS: Nick Graham’s gallery from the game

“I was thinking, ‘I went 0-for-4. I cannot go 0-for-5. Our seniors deserve more. I have to get a hit,’ ” said West, whose mother Michelle coaches first base for Lebanon. “I think I was more determined. I looked down to my mom at first base and she was like, ‘You got this.’ ”

The Warriors (28-3) had to dig very deep for this one, and not just in the seventh inning. They were down 8-0 in the second.

Credit: Nick Graham

Credit: Nick Graham

Lebanon will return to Centerville to meet Mason (26-3) for a regional championship Saturday at noon. The Comets hammered Springboro 13-0 in five innings in Wednesday’s second semifinal.

“I’m numb,” Warriors coach Brian Kindell said. “Obviously it wasn’t very pretty early on. We fell down 8-0 quickly like we really weren’t ready to play, and that’s on me as a coach. We’ll have to get that fixed.

“But we’ve got a senior-dominated group. We’re very, very experienced, and they were not going to quit fighting. As long as you’re alive in this tournament or in a game, you’re dangerous. We proved that today.”

Molly Osborne was 3-for-4 with a double and a three-run homer for Lebanon, also scoring three runs. Teammate Chloe Allen went 2-for-5 with a three-run long ball, and West totaled three RBIs.

RELATED: One bat didn’t survive at Centerville

The Warriors used Alexis Strother, Taylor Lewis and Kat Frank in the circle. Lewis pitched 3.2 innings in relief of Strother, then came back in relief of Frank for the last 1.2 innings to get the win.

It was brutal defeat for West (19-11), which got three-run homers from Casey Bramble and Lauren Betz to surge ahead 8-0 in the top of the second.

Credit: Nick Graham

Credit: Nick Graham

And when Lebanon rallied to grab a 9-8 lead, the Firebirds’ Allie Cummins erased that deficit with a grand slam in the sixth.

Cummins also walked twice, singled and scored three times, and Betz added a double and three runs. Megan Brankamp went the distance in the circle for West.

“All you can do is look at them and just tell them, ‘We gave our all,’ ” Firebirds coach Keith Castner said. “You go this far along in the tournament, you’ve got to be ready to play all seven innings. And our girls responded.

“We had about three innings without scoring, and then we came back and starting hitting the ball again and hitting it hard. They found a way to get one more run than us.”

Cummins, a junior shortstop, described the Greater Miami Conference vs. Greater Western Ohio Conference clash as intense.

RELATED: Badin blanked in D-II regional

“It was a game that we all knew was going to happen and a game that we all hoped for,” Cummins said. “I feel great about this team. There’s no team I would’ve rather played with. We’ve been through a lot. We’ve had a bunch of ups and a few downs, but we’ll take this and learn from it for next year.”

Lebanon’s last four runs in the seventh came with two outs and were unearned.

Frank had plated a run on a fielder’s choice to make it 13-10 with no outs. Strother delivered a hard-hit ball with two outs that was mishandled at first base and allowed a run to score. Madison Hartman followed with an RBI single to close the gap to 13-12, and Alex Gibson singled to load the bases and set the stage for West, the Warriors’ shortstop.

“It was interesting,” West said of falling behind 8-0 right out of the gate. “We got flustered, and we haven’t had that this season. I think it was a team effort to get back in it. We had each other’s backs.”

Kindell praised Strother’s effort in getting to first base safely after she hit the ball in the seventh. She hurt her knee on an awkward slide into the base, but stayed in the game.

“They were able to knock that ball down and keep it in the infield, but that kid busted her butt down the line,” Kindell said. “She’s not blessed with a lot of (speed), but that’s just a kid that doesn’t want to lose and doesn’t want to turn her uniform in. I think that says everything about her.”

Credit: Nick Graham

Credit: Nick Graham

Cummins looked like she was going to be the hero after whacking a Frank pitch over the fence in right-center field in the sixth. It was her 10th home run of the season.

She’s gotten used to being pitched around or intentionally walked, but there was nowhere to put her with the bases full.

“I knew they weren’t going to walk me with the bases loaded,” Cummins said. “So I waited for my pitch. I sat on it and drove it to right-center. It was a little outside … I just went and got it.”

Asked what she was feeling as the ball disappeared over the fence, Cummins said simply, “I was just doing it for my team. I just had to get my job done.”

Bramble and Alyssa Triner both had two hits for the Firebirds. In the something-you-don’t-see-every-day department, Triner broke her bat on a grounder to the pitcher in the fourth inning.

West is losing seven seniors: Kelsey Braswell, Lauren Haynes, Taylor Bramlett, Megan Edwards, Kerri Bruewer, Emma Rednour and Brankamp.

Credit: Nick Graham

Credit: Nick Graham

“I’m sad for the seniors,” Castner said. “They all gave their all, whether it was in the dugout, out at practice, in the field, at the plate. I’m very proud of all of them.”

The Firebirds ousted Lebanon in the sectional finals last year. Kindell said he’s not big on using revenge as motivation.

“I’ve always been the type of person that every year and every team is different,” he said. “If they would’ve beat us earlier in the season, we’d probably talk about it more. But we just recognized the fact that they knocked us out last year and that they’re very, very good.

“It’s crazy. You don’t see many regional semifinal games at 14-13, especially with the caliber of defense and pitching that both teams have. It’s definitely a unique outcome, but one that we’ll take.”

Gibson collected three hits for the Warriors, and Allen, Strother, Hartman and Grace Gressly each chipped in two. Gibson and Gressly added RBIs.

Lakota West 260-005-0—13-10-2

Lebanon 040-050-5—14-16-2

WP — Taylor Lewis (12-2); LP — Megan Brankamp (15-10); HR — LW: Casey Bramble, Lauren Betz, Allie Cummins; LE: Chloe Allen, Molly Osborne. Records: LW 19-11, LE 28-3

Credit: Nick Graham

Credit: Nick Graham

Credit: Nick Graham

Credit: Nick Graham

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