By GREG KEIM
THE GOSHEN NEWS
High school softball fans that enjoy offensive fireworks didn’t get what t.hey were looking for in the NECC tournament championship Monday night at Fairfield.
On the other hand, fans that like good defense and solid pitching got just what they were looking for.
Two of the league’s top pitching aces in Fairfield sophomore Danica Mast and Lakeland senior Ashlynn Grubb locked up in a battle that lasted a mere one hour as both pitchers lived up to their reputations.
Lakeland won the contest by a 2-0 score as Grubb belted a two-run homer in the top of the fourth
“That was a quick game,” Lakeland coach Sherry Severson said. “Both pitchers were putting the ball over.
“Danica has outstanding control. She had walked only two batters coming into the game so we told the girls to be aggressive at the plate. We hit a lot of fly balls early on. We told the girls to stay patient and keep their form at the plate.”
It’s the first NECC tourney title for Lakeland since 1994.
“Danica pitched a great game,” Fairfield coach John Skibbe said. “Grubb is one of the best pitchers we will see this season.”
Mast allowed seven hits while striking out three and walking none, an effort good enough to win most high school games. Grubb was just better as she took a no-hitter into the seventh inning before Fairfield senior Kaela Miller singled to lead off the frame. Grubb fanned seven and also didn’t walk anyone.
Neither pitcher allowed a hit over the first three innings. Lakeland sophomore Madison Campbell started the fourth by slapping a single. With one out, Grubb launched her game-winning homer over the fence in left center.
“That was a huge rocket, she hit,” Severson said. “She is one of our senior leaders. She has a tremendous presence and makes the rest of the players around her better.”
Junior Laken Detweiler is the Lakeland catcher.
“Laken is doing a great job for us,” Severson said. “Before this season she had never caught. Not in little league. Not in middle school. She spent a lot of time in the offseason working with Ashlynn learning about how her pitches move.”
Fairfield began the game with Miller reaching first on a Lakeland error, but she was thrown out trying to advance to second. The team didn’t have another runner reach first until Miller’s single in the seventh.
“Our offense revolves around runners getting on base and running the bases,” Skibbe. “That is kind of hurting when you don’t get runners on.
“We have some things on offense that we need to do better. We need to stay on top of the ball and we have got to hit a lot more hard ground balls. Miller did a good job of staying on top of the ball tonight and we need more of that.”
Fairfield tried to get something going in the bottom of the seventh but a solid play by the Lakeland defense ended the contest. Senior Alex DeWitt ripped a line drive that was snagged by Lakeland’s second baseman sophomore Paige Gust who was able to double Miller off first.
“That was a great defensive play,” Severson said.
Two players had multiple hits for the winners. Junior Jill Mangas singled in the fourth and doubled in the sixth and senior Morgan Meyers singled in the fifth and seventh.
Lakeland 000 200 0 — 2-7-1
Fairfield 000 000 0 — 0-1-0
Pitching: (Lakeland) Ashlynn Grubb (W) seven strikeouts and no walks. (Fairfield) Danica Mast (L) three strikeouts and no walks.
Hitting: (Lakeland) Ashlynn Grubb home run, two RBI; Jill Mangas double, single; Morgan Meyers two singles, Madison Campbell single, Paige Gust single. (Fairfield) Kaela Miller single.