FAIRBORN — The Kenton Ridge High School softball team is one win away from advancing to the Division II state tournament for the first time since 2013.
Cougars senior pitcher Kylie Ropp threw a one-hit shutout with 10 strikeouts as sixth-ranked Kenton Ridge beat Marengo Highland 5-0 in a D-II regional semifinal game on Wednesday evening at Wright State University.
“Kylie pitched well today,” said Cougars coach Sarah Schalnat. “We did a great job baserunning today and put a lot of balls in play that were hard. I think that really benefited us trying to make them make mistakes. It was a great game.”
The Cougars (2-36) advanced to face Greenville (28-4) in a D-II regional final game at 5 p.m. Friday at Wright State. The Lady Wave beat Cleves Taylor 6-1 in nine innings to advance to the regional final, the state’s Elite Eight.
“I’m really excited and I’m really proud of us,” Ropp said.
Cougars freshman Kendall Massie went 2-for-4 with two RBIs, freshman Annie Fincham had a triple and freshman Brenna Fyffe, sophomore Kylie Schnitzler and junior Natalee Fyffe each had RBIs for Kenton Ridge, which won for the ninth time in its last 10 games.
Highland freshman Kate Clements had the lone hit for the Scots, which finished their season 14-12.
Ropp was dominant in the circle, tossing her fourth consecutive postseason shutout. The senior used an arsenal of pitches, including a curveball, screwball, fastball and changeup, allowing just one hit and one walk in the game. Highland had two players reach base in the game — one in the fourth inning and another in the seventh inning — neither of which advanced past first base.
“She had her composure again today,” Schalnat said. “She’s just really focused. We’re not batting her right now and that’s what she’s focused on — coming into the dugout and pitching. She’s just doing great.”
The Cougars threatened with bases loaded in the first inning, but weren’t able to get a run across the plate. The near-miss, however, gave Ropp confidence on the mound, she said.
“I’m always really confident in my team, but after the first inning, I knew that we had bases loaded and were putting the pressure on them,” Ropp said. “Whether it’s later or the next inning, I knew we were going to get runners on, move the runners and bring runners in.”
With two outs In the top of the third inning, Brenna Fyffe reached on an error by the Scots shortstop and stole second base to move into scoring position. Schnitzler singled on a 1-2 count, scoring Fyffe from second to give Kenton Ridge a 1-0 lead.
Natalee Fyfee led off the fourth inning with a single and pinch runner Mya Simpson moved to third base on a sacrifice bunt by sophomore Kyanne Tyson and a single by junior Dakotah Timmons. Massie followed with a single, scoring both Simpson and Timmons to make it 3-0.
Massie advanced to third on the throw and scored on a fielder’s choice by Brenna Fyffe, extending their lead to 4-0.
“We did a great job running the bases,” Schalnat said. “If they made a mistake, we did a great job taking advantage of it. That’s what you’ve got to do at tournament time.”
Fincham led off the fifth inning with a triple and scored on a ground ball by Natalee Fyffe to make it 5-0.
The Cougars will face a familiar foe in the Green Wave, who are led by Shawnee grad Jerrod Newland. Greenville is seeking its fourth trip to the state tournament and first since finishing as runner-up in 2012.
“It’s always a great game between us and Greenville and I’m looking forward to that on Friday,” Schalnat said.
A year ago, the Cougars beat Greenville 2-1 in a regional semifinal game before falling to Jonathan Alder 5-2 in the regional final.
The winner will play either Maumee or Akron Tallmadge in a D-II state semifinal game at 5:30 p.m. Thursday, June 1 at Firestone Stadium in Akron.
The Cougars are seeking their seventh trip to the state tournament. They want nothing more than to return to Akron for the first time in a decade.
“We’re going to focus on ourselves and get ready,” Schalnat said.
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