AKRON, Ohio — The Lakota West Firebirds had the tying run at the plate in the bottom of the seventh inning in the state semifinals. But similar to their other trips to the Division I high school state softball semis, that’s where this one ended too.
Lakota West made another solid run but dropped its semifinal game to Massillon Perry 4-2 at Akron’s Firestone Stadium, according to the Journal-News.
The Firebirds dropped to 1-5 in five state appearances overall. And the one time Lakota West reached the title game in 2018, the Firebirds lost to Perry 11-5 in five innings.
“The first thing (Perry’s coach) said to me was you’re going to be back next year,” Lakota West coach Keith Castner said. “I’d love to see it. He said we’ve got a competitor on the mound out there. That was a heck of a compliment.”
Lakota West hurler KK Mathis held the Panthers in check for most of the game. But Maddie Johnston’s three-run homer to left gave the Panthers a 4-1 lead that the Firebirds (30-2) struggled to overcome.
“It’s going to be a big knot in our stomach,” Castner said. “I know this young lady (Mathis) is going to sit there and put it on herself. She needs to understand it’s not her. It’s all of us. It’s our whole team. They scored for so we needed to score five. This lady right here is a big-time leader.”
“I let one go and let her get a three-run jack. … As coach said, I’ll always put it on myself,” Mathis said. “One pitch got the best of me. Just know I’ll be in the off-season working as hard as I ever have so we can get back here and win this game.”
Mathis allowed seven hits, four runs (all earned), struck out five and walked three.
Panthers’ pitcher Missy Holzopfel, a Cleveland State University recruit, allowed three hits, two runs (one earned), struck out eight and walked one.
“She had her good stuff today,” Mathis said. “Sometimes you have to tip your hat to the other pitcher. I think we put too much pressure on ourselves than we needed to. Just a little bit of nervousness. We all can hit one through nine, so it was hard for us not being able to string together hits like normal. … We’ll be ready next year.”
Perry (27-6) scored a run in the top of the first on a one-out single and two-out triple. Lakota West tied it in the bottom of the first on Belle Hummel walk and Molly Grace RBI double.
The Firebirds threatened again in the bottom of the seventh. Jo Jo Peregrina reached on a two-out error to third. Lily Volmer then doubled to make it 4-2. Holzopfel ended the game with a swinging strikeout.
“We knew coming they had a deep lineup,” Perry coach Scott Daugherty said. “They have that hitter – KK Mathis who is a stud – but we couldn’t pitch around her. LW had a 1-9 that could really smack the ball around.”
“We felt we had a chance,” Castner said. “That was a hard-fought game by both teams. … We’ve only been able to get to the final game one time. We know we lost to a very good team out there.”
The Journal-News is a media partner of WCPO 9 News.