Fairfield head coach Terry Weikert was in stunned disbelief after the Knights’ season ended with a thud in a 7-1 defeat to Susquenita in the semifinals of the District 3 Class 2A softball tournament on Thursday at Fairfield.
The Knights hit over .400 as a team this season, according to Weikert, but they managed just six hits against Blackhawk hurler McKensie Casey. They were unable to collect more than two hits in any inning.
“We soundly beat James Buchanan, one of the top teams in 4A, in a scrimmage last week and I scouted (Susquenita) on Tuesday,” Weikert said. “I wouldn’t have believed you if you told me before this game that we’d only score one run and get as few hits as we did.”
Casey wasn’t overpowering, as evidenced by her three strikeouts, but also had great control. She walked only one batter and threw 55 strikes out of her 73 pitches.
“We weren’t patient in the box,” Fairfield senior Ryleigh Bolyard said. “The pitches she was throwing were strikes, but she didn’t throw hard. We weren’t staying back and waiting on them. We were over-anxious.”
Susquenita (16-6) tallied single runs in the opening two frames with Mandi Armstrong’s sacrifice fly bringing home Maid Morrett in the first and Morrett’s groundout scoring Mariah Massie in the second.
Fairfield (15-5) answered with a run in its half of the second when Emily Ridge reached on an error that scored courtesy runner Madison Cromwell.
A three-spot in the top of third by the visitors broke the game open with Massie’s run-scoring single and Ashlee Sheibley’s two-run double supplying the power.
The Knights threatened in both the third and fourth innings, getting a runner to second with one down in each frame, but got no further as Casey buckled down and escaped the threats.
‘Nita added a run in the fourth on Evin Fisher’s single, then Morrett capped the scoring with an RBI single in the seventh.
The Knights were looking to advance to the district title contest for the third consecutive season, having split their previous two appearances. A title in 2017 and a runner-up finish last season.
“We had a lot of postseason experience coming into this game, five starters that also started in the district title game the past two years,” Weikert said. “So this is a big disappointment.”
Bolyard added, “We were nervous and I’m not sure why. We’ve played in a lot of big games.”
For Bolyard, it’s a sour ending to an outstanding career that saw her earn first team all-state honors in 2018. She’ll continue her softball career and education at Frederick Community College for the next two years with a plan to transfer after that to complete a degree in occupational therapy.
The 15 victories tops what the Knights have produced in the last two seasons, but Weikert couldn’t hide his disappointment with how the season went.
“We set some goals that season and we didn’t reach them,” Weikert said. “We lacked the attitude to go after teams and win games. Too many times against good teams, we didn’t go after them. We let them dictate the tone of the game to us.”
With five starters graduating, Weikert will be looking for players to fill the gaps and he knows that it won’t be easy at some positions.
“We have some talent coming back, for sure,” Weikert said. “But we’ve got some holes to fill. I’ve got some ideas right now of what we may do and I still think we can have a .500 season next year. Probably not as good as the past few years, but we’ll be a competitive team.”
Follow Tom Sixeas on Twitter at @TomSixeas
Susquenita 113 100 1 — 7 10 1
Fairfield 010 000 0 — 1 6 1
McKensie Casey and Evin Fisher; Haylee Wastler and Braidan Wastler. WP: Casey. LP: H. Wastler. SO-BB: Casey 3-1; H. Wastler 1-5. 2B: S-Ashlee Sheibley; F-Ashley Roberts.