Skip to main content

Fairfield’s district success has been a long time coming 

The Highland County Press - Staff Photo - Create Article
Highland County Press Sports Editor Stephen Forsha
Stephen Forsha, The Highland County Press
Pictured (l-r) are Fairfield seniors Wyatt Willey, Cade Miller, Gabe Fouch, Cody Frost and Nolan Campbell. 



Sometimes the wait is worth it, and on Monday, the 22 years of waiting for the Fairfield Lions was well worth the celebration and excitement by the current 2024 Lions. First baseman Corbin Willey fielded a ground ball with two outs, raced to first and ran over the base with unbridled excitement — with his arms raised in victory — for a five-inning, 11-1 win over Racine Southern, giving the Lions their first district championship in baseball since 2002. 

Some of the players on the Fairfield Lions baseball team were district champions in basketball too, meaning the players who were on both championship rosters this season are in rare company, and they know what it takes to be battle-tested and achieve the goals they’ve set for themselves. 

In Chillicothe on Monday, the Lions showed how good of a team they are this season, as all three of their tournament games thus far have been played in greatly different ways. The Lions’ sectional final game saw Fairfield win 2-0 over the Eastern Eagles, a game where the Lions totaled just three hits, taking advantage of Eastern miscues for the victory. 

In the district semifinals — a 4-2 win over Ironton St. Joseph — Fairfield doubled their hit total with six and their run total with four.

Then came the district final win where Fairfield more than doubled their hit total from the district semifinal game, collecting 14 hits, as the hitting display was outstanding from start to finish. 

The Lions’ second inning has to be one of the best in the history of the program, because a 15-batter inning with nine runs scored, four walks, seven hits — two triples, five singles — and a hit by pitch, all on 57 total pitches, just doesn’t happen too often. 

When speaking with Fairfield head coach Kyle Zimmerman, he said it best about his team, spotlighting the maturity his team has shown in the ‘24 postseason: 

“I would love to sit here and take all the credit for it, but I truly believe it comes down to one factor, and that is maturity. What I told the boys was look, this is now the third time in a row we're coming to this ballgame. We're not new to it. The hard work is over. You've got to get to the game in order to play it. We accomplished that. 

“I’ve had guys that are on this team now that started in this game as sophomores, so you know, it's comfortable. Paints Stadium is comfortable for us. But we still had to make it happen. But once again, if you want to narrow down to one key thing, I do believe it's maturity.”

Their journey to the district championship saw the Lions overcome their recent past of two consecutive district final losses in the previous two seasons, but this year was different, and that has been evident all spring. 

The Lions had no hitters from two different pitchers this season, with Cade Miller throwing one against Manchester on Monday, April 1, and later in the season, on Friday, May 10, Zane Matthews tossed a no-hitter which sealed the Lions’ third consecutive Southern Hills Athletic Conference championship. 

Speaking of Miller, in 2024 he not only threw a no hitter, but in 10 appearances (49 innings) he’s built up quite a résumé, consisting of a 6-1 record, one save, 75 strikeouts, three shutouts and a WHIP of 0.980 with an ERA of 0.714. 

Then there is Gabe Fouch, who in nine games, consisting of 46 innings, has a 5-2 record, with 80 strikeouts and three shutouts, with a 0.935 WHIP and 0.457 ERA. He also has six games of 10-plus strikeouts, including a season-high 14 strikeouts twice this season.

In five games this season, Matthews has pitched 26 innings, collecting a 4-0 record with 36 strikeouts, three shutouts, a 0.808 WHIP and a 1.346 ERA. 

Those three pitchers have combined for 121 of 142 innings pitched by the Lions this season, while also combining for 191 strikeouts, nine shutouts and a 15-3 record.

The pitching not only makes this team compelling to watch, but the offense is just as exciting, with the Lions having 588 at-bats this season, collecting 186 runs, 193 hits (37 doubles, 10 triples, three home runs) plus 155 RBI and 57 stolen bases as a team. 

Some seniors have outstanding numbers this season with Miller (.471), Fouch (.313), Cody Frost (.290) and Wyatt Willey (.270) with no less than 60 at-bats. There is also Matthews, as the junior has an even higher batting average, standing at .522 with 69 at-bats. 

Nine of the Lions players have double-figure hits, with Matthews sitting in front with 36 for the season, followed by Miller with 33 and Fouch with 20, while Carson Chandler, Frost and Corbin Willey each with 18 hits in ‘24. 

Wyatt Willey had 17 hits, Blaine Fauber has totaled 15 hits and Corey Zimmerman has 11 hits this season, so it is safe to say all the months of batting practice and hitting in the cages this offseason has paid dividends. 

Matthews is also the runs leader for the Lions (31), but maybe the most impressive number for FHS this season has been their extra-base hit totals with 37 doubles, 10 triples and three home runs. Matthews sits at the top of the season RBI totals with 30, plus Matthews has the most steals with 17.

The Lions are currently 19-4 overall, and they were champions of the SHAC Division II with a 10-3 mark, where they outscored their SHAC foes 91-19 in 13 games. 

In overall play this season, Fairfield outscored their opponents, 186-41 (23 games), plus they’ve won seven consecutive games and will be playing in a regional semifinal game the program last played in before any of the current players were born (2002). 

Seeing the current seniors, juniors and sophomores build from losing the two previous district final games, to where they sit now, has been rewarding to watch. There is something different about watching programs having to start players as sophomores in big-time games, to seeing those same players mature as seniors and achieve their goals, and being district champions in baseball was most definitely a goal for Fairfield Lions baseball in 2024. 

As the Lions have a 10-day wait from their district final game to the regional final showdown — they will play a game (maybe two) to stay on top of their game. 

Zimmerman ended his interview after winning the district title with meaningful words that could give the Lions even more motivation as they prepare to play in baseball’s Sweet 16: 

“We have to continue to play baseball like we know how to play the game and perform at the level that we have to perform at, at this stage of the game. If we can do that, we're going to make Leesburg proud.”

So when Fairfield and their to-be-determined opponent hear “play ball” at Beavers Field in Lancaster on May 30 at 6 p.m., remember the Lions aren’t a team to sleep on. When they are at the top of their game, not many teams are better … just ask the teams they’ve defeated this season, and see what their answer is. 

Stephen Forsha is the sports editor of The Highland County Press. He can be reached at

Publisher's note: A free press is critical to having well-informed voters and citizens. While some news organizations opt for paid websites or costly paywalls, The Highland County Press has maintained a free newspaper and website for the last 25 years for our community. If you would like to contribute to this service, it would be greatly appreciated. Donations may be made to: The Highland County Press, P.O. Box 849, Hillsboro, Ohio 45133. Please include "for website" on the memo line.

Add new comment

This is not for publication.
This is not for publication.

Plain text

  • No HTML tags allowed.
  • Lines and paragraphs break automatically.
  • Web page addresses and email addresses turn into links automatically.
Article comments are not posted immediately to the Web site. Each submission must be approved by the Web site editor, who may edit content for appropriateness. There may be a delay of 24-48 hours for any submission while the web site editor reviews and approves it. Note: All information on this form is required. Your telephone number and email address is for our use only, and will not be attached to your comment.