Fairfield, rain end season for Cougars

There were two decisions made before the Teutopolis Class 2A softball Sectional championship ever started that would prove paramount in deciding the winner between Fairfield and Breese Central.

The first was a late decision by both schools and host Teutopolis to bump the start time up 30 minutes with thunderstorms threatening the area. The second was a coin flip, called by Fairfield coach Jeremy Ellis win to make the Lady Mules the home team. With the Mule gals up 5-1, Fairfield got out of a jam in the top of the fifth, making the game official if called, mere seconds before the skies opened up to do just that.

“I’m very disappointed with how it ended,” Cougars coach Gigi Kohrmann said after the game was called. “For a sectional championship to end this way is wrong. That is something they need to think about. These kids are playing for a sectional title.”

“We left the school at 2 p.m. like there was a 4:30 p.m. start. We pulled in and they were already warming up, ready to rock. We started early, which was early for our routine. Everything was run through the state to move things up, trying to play seven innings. It is a bad way to go for them, but it was the same for both teams,” Ellis said. “Everything was explained up front.”

With the threat of nature, it was important for both squads to be able to score early. Fairfield’s senior starter Sabrina Seitzinger worked around a one-out error in the first, helped by a caught stealing, and then worked around a one-out single from Breese pitcher Kaylee Schrand in the second to make sure the Cougars did not take an early lead.

“We tried to get out early, but things just were not clicking the way they should have. I don’t think we were as focused as we were the game before,” Kohrmann said.

Schrand struck out four of the first six batters she faced, but Fairfield strung together a two-out rally in the bottom of the second to go in front. The action started with a walk to seven hitter Chloe Hinkle and then freshman Kylar Slover singled on a soft liner to center. Lefty Katie Titzer followed with a single to score Hinkle and then senior shortstop Allison Tullis went opposite field for a two-run double. She would score after an error for a 4-0 lead, taking two bases on the infield error.

“We had an error there and we did not play our normal defense. We were not ready and got caught standing,” Kohrmann noted.

Breese Central got one run back in the top of the fourth, starting with a leadoff bunt single from freshman Olivia Wesselman. She was sacrificed to second before a walk to cleanup hitter Courtney Fisher. Wesselman came home on a hard single by Mackenzie Ratermann but Fisher was thrown out at home with a rifle throw from left fielder Morgan Gregory.

Fairfield would get that run back in the bottom of the fourth, starting with a bunt single from Slover when no one covered first. She moved to second on a wild pitch and stole third before scoring on a sacrifice fly to right by Titzer.

With the winds picking up and the rain starting to fall, Breese knew their proverbial backs were against the wall to start the fifth. They got back-to-back singles from the bottom of their lineup with Kristen Thomas and Jessica Eilers reaching. Seitzinger got a strikeout looking to roll over the lineup, and then got a popup and a groundout to strand two runners in scoring position.

They got two pitches into the bottom of the fifth when the rain turned for the worse, and did not relent, leaving the field unplayable for the rest of the night. After waiting out the storm for approximately 30 minutes, the game was called.

Central’s season ends with a 19-15 mark under their first-year coach. They had just one senior on the roster in Fisher.

“They had some inexperienced kids playing in a sectional for the first time, and I thought that was a big advantage for us,” Ellis noted. “We wanted to go in and put as much pressure on them early as we could. We wanted high energy from the get-go to get ahead of a younger team.

“We had a lot of seniors who have been there before. We know this is a game of concentration and mental ability. It is as much of the game as physical,” he added.

Fairfield improved to 22-10, winning just their second softball sectional championship in school history. The first came way back in 1978.

“It was a long time coming for these girls. It was something we were shooting for. Our goal was to get one step past where we have been. We talked about 1978 on that banner. We wanted to put our number up with that one,” Ellis said.

Fairfield made it to the sectional opener two years ago, and the sectional championship last year, losing to Teutopolis both times.

They await the winner of the Carterville Sectional, featuring the host Lady Lions and Nashville, set for 11 a.m. Saturday. The Super-Sectional will be held in Johnston City, set for Monday at 4:30 p.m.