By Michael Rich
Kennedy Kashmiry scored the winning run on a wild pitch with two outs in the seventh inning to send 26th-seeded Olentangy Liberty to a 4-3 stunner over top-seeded Delaware Hayes in a Division I softball district semifinal Monday in Lewis Center.
Coach Bob Lee said walking off the field after his Patriots dropped both games of an April 30 doubleheader, which included a 10-0 loss in five innings to Hayes, that he hoped Liberty could surprise somebody in the tournament.
Well, surprise. After an 8-14 regular season, a win at 19th-seeded Grove City in the second round and now a shocker over Hayes, Liberty finds itself playing for a district title for the third consecutive year.
“I can tell you that this feeling compared to (past years) is so much better than just sliding through,” Kashmiry said. “(Before) we were expected to win and this is just an amazing feeling … I’m so hyped up from it I don’t think I’ll be able to sleep tonight.”
Lee thought he’d try some reverse-psychology in the first practice after last week’s win over Grove City. He told them to just play hard and have fun because they don’t have a chance to beat Hayes.
“Those kids never gave up on themselves … as bad as we got beat a couple of times (this season),” Lee said. “I don’t think any of the kids were expecting (us to play for another district title) in the middle of the season.”
Kashmiry and Lillee Larosa had two hits apiece to back a solid performance by Katelyn Wilhelm in the circle.
Arica Flaugher staked Liberty to an early lead with a three-run homer to center in the first. Miranda Noday singled and Kaylin Lee reached on an error to set up the homer.
“It looked like it was a belt-high pitch that Arica jumped on,” Lee said. “When she first hit it, I thought it was a gap-shot line drive and then it just kept going.
“That was big because it gave us some confidence and give a little cushion to our pitcher, maybe make her not feel so much pressure.”
Kashmiry had two hits for the Patriots (10-14), including a single in the seventh inning that got by the right fielder. She ended up at third on the play before scoring the go-ahead run on a wild pitch.
“I fouled a couple off and got an outside pitch and drove it through (to right),” Kashmiry said. “I was just praying that one of my teammates would hit me in. My adrenaline was pumping (on the wild pitch).”
Meanwhile, staked to a three-run lead in the first, Wilhelm pitched solidly for Liberty. She allowed three runs on eight hits and three walks and struck out seven in a complete-game victory.
“Our pitcher pitched with a lot of confidence — she didn’t get rattled,” Lee said.
Amaia Daniel led Hayes (23-1) with three hits and drove in the tying run with a RBI single in the fourth inning.
Daniel singled to lead off the Hayes first and scored on Kaily Schuette’s RBI single. Schuette and Lexi Mattix finished with two hits apiece for the Pacers.
Caylin Morstadt had a sacrifice fly to round out the scoring.
Madi Huck took the loss in a solid performance for Hayes in the circle. She gave up four runs (two earned) on six hits and two walks and struck out 14 batters over a complete game.
Liberty will play 10th-seeded Central Crossing in the district final at Pickerington Central High School at a date and time to be announced. The Patriots split a pair of OCC-Central games with the Comets in the regular season.
Follow Michael Rich on Twitter @mrichdelgazette.