LAGRANGE — The last time Keystone and Firelands met at LaGrange Community Park, the Falcons broke three streaks.
It was May 22 last year and they defeated the Wildcats 1-0 in a Division II district semifinal for their first win over Keystone in at least nine seasons.
Until then, the Wildcats hadn’t lost a game at the district tournament level in 14 years. And the upset set the table for Firelands’ first-ever district championship.
But that was nearly a year ago. They were different teams then.
It showed Wednesday afternoon as undefeated Keystone routed Firelands 11-3 in Patriot Athletic Conference play. The game was originally scheduled for Tuesday, but was postponed by snow.
The Wildcats (9-0, 5-0 PAC) drilled 17 hits, including a double and a home run. Three players — Summer Constable, Sammie Stefan and Liz Hayes — had three hits apiece. Destiny Weber and Lauren Shaw each had two.
Hayes entered the game with a team-leading .714 batting average.
“She is on fire,” Wildcats coach Jim Piazza said of his junior catcher. “She’s doing a good job behind the plate and she’s having a great offensive season. It’s just a mindset. When you’re not up there thinking — and having fun — it’s a great thing. She’s just very relaxed right now.”
The secret of her success?
“Everyone says just stay relaxed,” Hayes said. “That might be overused, but that really is the key to it. Just push everything out of your head, all the negativity, and just get in there and hit. You know what you can do. Track the ball and swing hard. We work really hard at it in practice. We’ve taken thousands of swings.”
The Keystone double belonged to Stefan in the second inning and the homer was Carleigh Herrington’s first of the season, a solo blast in a five-run fourth. The Wildcats basically put it away with a five-run first. They scored one run in the second.
“We just really focus on being aggressive,” the senior Herrington said. “We try to find the best pitch we can. The first good strike, we just go after it, swing hard and hope for the best.”
The Wildcats stole three bases and went for an extra base every time they had a chance.
“As a team, we’re going to take what we can get,” Herrington said. “Sometimes we’re going to get thrown out and mistakes are going to happen. But more often than not, we’re just going to go for more at every opportunity.”
As for her homer, she said: “It was an inside pitch. It was in my zone and I went for it.”
It looked as though the Falcons (3-2, 2-1) might be able to catch up when they scored two runs on four consecutive hits with one out in the fourth. But Shaw, Keystone’s freshman southpaw, bore down and struck out two of the next three as the Falcons left the bases loaded. They also left three on base two innings later.
“I was proud of the way the girls came back,” Falcons coach Phil Rawlings said of the fourth-inning rally. “They might have quit, but they kept fighting. Keystone is a good hitting team, and Emma (Ranney, the Firelands pitcher) battled every hitter. But my hat’s off to Keystone. They’re a very good team.”
Big weekend for ’Cats
Keystone will play three games in a Louisville, Ky., invitational this weekend. The opponents will be Russellville, an Arkansas division state champion last spring; Ballard, a Louisville team; and Huntington North of Indiana.
All three teams have players who have committed to Southeastern Conference schools, Piazza said. The Wildcats return home Saturday night.
Contact Bob Daniels at 329-7135 or firstname.lastname@example.org.