SPRINGFIELD — The Kenton Ridge High School softball program is back in the Division II regional semifinals for the second straight season.
The fifth-ranked Cougars (22-6) will play Marengo Highland in a Division II regional semifinal game at 5 p.m. today at Wright State University. The winner will play either fourth-ranked Greenville or Cleves Taylor at 5 p.m. Friday at Wright State University for a berth in the D-II state tournament. All tickets are available online at ohsaa.org.
The Fighting Scots (14-11) beat Kenton Ridge’s division rival Jonathan Alder 5-3 on Saturday to advance to a regional semifinal game for the first time since 2010.
“They have a good team, they’re well coached,” said Cougars coach Sarah Schalnat. “They have a good pitcher and some good hitters. I think if we play our games and do what we’re supposed to, it will force a good regional semifinal game, which at this point they should all be pretty good games.”
Last year, the Cougars beat Greenville 2-1 in a regional semifinal game at Mason before falling to Jonathan Alder 5-2 in the regional final.
Last week, the Cougars beat Franklin 11-0 in five innings to win their second straight district championship. Cougars senior Kylie Ropp struck out 11 batters, while the Kenton Ridge offense tallied 14 hits in the victory.
Kenton Ridge has yet to allow a run in the postseason, outscoring three opponents 44-0.
The key, Schalnat said, has been keeping focus throughout their postseason run. Before its district game, the team was “loose and silly” like it was any other game, she said.
“They seem to all get along and have a good time with each other,” Schalnat said. “They’ve really been cheering for each other.”
While Highland will present a new challenge, the key will be focusing on themselves and making small adjustments throughout the game, especially at the plate.
“Our kids are doing a good job of that now,” Schalnat said. “They’re reading the ball. Our leadoff will go up to bat and if she gets out, she’s always talking to the next batter and telling her what she saw at the plate. The kids are really good about passing it back. That’s been beneficial for us helping each other out.”
The Cougars are seeking their first trip to the state tournament since they finished runner-up in 2013. The program is also motivated to bring home a title for longtime softball coaching staff member Emil Leach, who passed away earlier this year. The team is wearing bows in their hair throughout the postseason that read “Emil’s Way.”
“We’re just trying to focus on doing this for him,” Schalnat said. “We have to keep being where our feet are.”
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