Senior leadership key in Kenton Ridge’s state run

SPRINGFIELD — With one weekend of high school softball remaining, Kenton Ridge seniors Natalee Fyffe and Dakotah Timmons will finish their careers playing amongst Ohio’s elite at the state tournament.

After back-to-back losses in a D-II regional final, the seniors’ hard work has paid off this spring with a trip to the state final four.

“It was a rough ending at (the regional final) game in back-to-back years,” Timmons said. “It’s fun to be state bound. I don’t think I’ve ever played with a stronger group of girls all the way through — offensively and defensively. Our bench is always loud for us. I’m excited and we’re playing with confidence.”

Fyffe and Timmons are the lone seniors for second-ranked Kenton Ridge (28-4), which will play No. 1 Canfield (25-3) in a state semifinal game at 10 a.m. Friday at Akron Firestone Stadium. The winner will play either Bryan (21-5) or Circleville Logan Elm (21-8) in the D-II state championship game at 3:30 p.m. Saturday.

“There’s only two seniors, but I feel like our group works so well together,” Fyffe said. “We kind of all work together. We don’t have to be the big leaders on the team. We all mesh together well and do things for each other.”

The seniors — both four-year varsity players — have made sacrifices all season to help the team advance to the state tournament for the seventh time in program history, said Cougars coach Sarah Schalnat.

Timmons is hitting .436 with 27 RBIs and seven doubles from the No. 9 hole in the team’s batting order.

“She’s quick and it’s nice because she brings us back to the top,” Schalnat said.

Fyffe, one of the Cougars relief pitchers, has served as the team’s designated hitter during the Cougars postseason run. She’s hitting .383 with 18 RBIs at the plate this spring, while going 2-0 with a 2.19 earned run average and 23 strikeouts in the circle.

“She’s always ready to go,” Schalnat said. “She gets loose and knows that at any minute she could go in and pitch. The times she has gone out there, she’s done a great job for us.”

The duo made several key plays in the team’s 6-2 regional final victory over Granville last week. Fyffe’s sacrifice bunt in the third inning moved a runner from first to third base, setting up an RBI single by sophomore Brenna Fyffe. Timmons went 2-for-2 with two RBIs to add onto the lead.

“They know what to expect and they know the situation,” Schalnat said. “They know the situations when we’re going to be bunting and they’re ready for that.”

The seniors have done a great job holding the team together all season, Brenna Fyffe said.

“They pick us up,” Brenna Fyffe said. “Whenever we get down, they’re always there to pick us up.”

The seniors will do whatever it takes to help the team win, Schalnat said. They’ve been a great example for the younger players of what it means to be selfless, she said.

“They’re the directors in the dugout,” Schalnat said. “They keep the kids engaged. It’s true leadership. They look up to both of them.”

The Cougars hope to get a chance to play for the school’s first-ever state championship — and they’ll do whatever it takes to get there.

“We do what’s best for the team,” Natalee Fyffe said.

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