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Fairfield breaks away from Waterford for district semifinal victory

The Highland County Press - Staff Photo - Create Article
Fairfield's Landry Hattan celebrates at second base after two runs score in the sixth inning, Saturday in the Lions' district semifinal win over Waterford. (HCP Photo/Stephen Forsha)
Stephen Forsha, The Highland County Press

CHILLICOTHE — The Fairfield Lions entered the bottom of the sixth inning of their 2023 Division IV District Semifinal game with a one-run lead against the Waterford Wildcats. Once the inning was finished, the Lions built a six-run lead, and they eventually won by five runs as they defeated the Wildcats, 9-4 Saturday at VA Memorial Stadium, moving to the district finals for a second straight season.

Fairfield broke away from Waterford by starting the bottom of the sixth inning with five runs, but before that FHS scored one run in each of the first four innings of play, leading 4-1 after four innings.

“We started off early with a run an inning there for a while and then Waterford made a nice run on us,” Fairfield head coach Kyle Zimmerman said. “I told the boys, I went down and scouted them Tuesday, and they’re a good ball team. You can’t let up on them. However, we still had the lead at that particular time.

“We came back out in the sixth, and I told them hey, that’s going to determine who we pitch for the sixth inning, it’s going to determine a lot for us right now. We ended up with a bit of a cushion, so the bats stepped up, and they made things happen for us.”

The Lions’ first run was scored by Zane Matthews, who took first base on a fielder’s choice, stole second and scored on an infield single off the bat of Cade Miller for the early 1-0 advantage with two outs.

FHS led off the bottom of the second inning with Wyatt Willey forcing a full count walk and advancing to third when Noah Allering laid down a bunt. Allering took first on an infield error, as he eventually was standing at second base.

Willey scored a run off a groundout by Blaine Fauber for the 2-0 lead.

Fairfield in the third led off with a Matthews single to right field, and he stole second base. After two straight outs, Landry Hattan singled to left field to plate Matthews, increasing the Lions’ lead to three runs.

The Wildcats scored one run in the top of the fourth and followed with two runs in the top of the fifth, cutting Fairfield’s lead to one run, as FHS did score a run in the bottom of the fourth inning.

Wyatt Collins began the bottom of the fourth by taking first base on an error, stole second base and went to third base on a wild pitch. With two outs, Matthews took first on another Waterford error, allowing Collins to score from third base for their fourth run of the game.

With the score 4-3 after the top of the sixth was finished, the Lions took complete control of the game with five runs in the bottom of the sixth for a 9-3 lead. Collins singled to start the inning, followed by a base hit by Fauber with one out, as Collins was caught stealing second base.

With Owen Larrick entering the game as a pinch runner for Fauber, Dow Moon had a base hit to centerfield, moving Larrick to second base.

During the ensuing at-bat, Matthews doubled to centerfield on a 0-1 count, scoring Larrick for a 5-3 lead. A walk by Gabe Fouch loaded the bases, and Miller responded with a base hit to third base, scoring Moon.

Hattan followed with a single to left field and took second on a fielding error in the same sequence, allowing Matthews and Fouch to score runs and moving Miller to third base.

“I actually called a squeeze, and he fouled the ball off, and I thought about trying to call it again,” Zimmerman said of Hattan’s big play. “We’ve been successful doing that this year, but then I thought no, they might be expecting that, so let him hit. It was a nice shot to left centerfield that scored two runs at that moment, and that just kind of kept things going for us.”

Following a pitching change, Willey hit a sacrifice fly to right field to score Miller for a 9-3 lead.

Waterford scored one last run in the top of the seventh, but the Lions fended off the Wildcats for the win.

The Lions totaled 11 hits and had no errors, while Waterford committed four errors and totaled nine hits.

Moon (2-for-4, on hit), Matthews (2-for-4, a double, three runs, one RBI), Miller (2-for-4, one run, two RBI) and Hattan (2-for-3, two RBI) each finished with two hits, while Elijah Humphreys (1-for-1), Collins (1-for-3, one run) and Fauber (1-for-3, one RBI) each had one hit.

Fouch scored one run and walked twice, while Willey scored a run and drew one walk.

Matthews also collected three stolen bases, while Noah Allering and Collins each had one steal.

Miller was the winning pitcher for the Lions, totaling 6.1 innings on the mound, allowing four runs (three earned) on nine hits and three walks. Miller collected seven strikeouts in the win.

“I knew Cade was the guy to go with today, there was no doubt about that,” Zimmerman said. “It was just how long to let him go, if you have to bring in Gabe, how many can he withstand to come back Monday. A lot of variables played into it. We as a coaching staff just happened to make the right decision today. It doesn’t always work out for us, but when it does, it’s fun.”

Fouch pitched the final 0.2 innings in relief, allowing no runs, hits or walks and having one strikeout.

“I’m happy with everyone from the seniors and Cade Miller on the mound, being a junior pitching, to what happened to us in the sixth inning. He went back out for us, and we told him if he gets in any trouble [he’d come out], but we actually took him out because he was at 110 pitches,” Zimmerman said. “We didn’t want to tear up his arm anymore because we have to come back and play Monday. The whole team responded.

“Our pitchers did what we’ve come to expect them to do all season long, and then offensively, when we needed hits, we got them from a lot of our leaders on the team. Dow Moon, Zane Matthews, Landry Hattan, Cade Miller was 2-for-2, Gabe Fouch had a big night for us. All the pieces worked, and we get to play another day.”

The win moves Fairfield to 19-5 overall, and they will now take on the South Webster Jeeps on Monday, May 22 at 7 p.m. in a district final game at VA Memorial Stadium in Chillicothe.

“Monday night will be no cakewalk, but it’s not supposed to be at this level,” Zimmerman said. “As always, we’ve got to show up and do the fundamental things that it takes to win a ball game and show up with the mentality that it’s our game to lose.

“Once again, I want to spotlight our seniors, all of them on the team — it’s not so much always who was on the field but what they’re doing for us, keeping us calm on the way down here, keeping everybody in check. This was definitely a team win all the way today.”

(More photos will be added Sunday.)

    000 120 1 — 4 9 4
FHS    111 105 x — 9 11 0


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