BEAVERCREEK — Three pitches into the game and facing a 1-2 count, a bewildered Kyleigh Cook of Fairborn looked back at her bench from the plate and could only smile.
Every softball being thrown by Beavercreek’s Haley Ferguson in the circle was coming in at over 60 mph. In the game a day earlier, no one on Fairborn’s team was seeing anything above 45.
The entire first inning set the tone in Wednesday’s sectional tournament game for both teams as Beavercreek advanced to the Monday’s sectional final with a 4-0 win.
Haley Ferguson fired away against the top of Fairborn’s order as it attempted to gain its timing. Bailee Walters hitting third was able to foul off a few pitches before eventually pulling one of her two doubles in the game down the right field line, but a quick groundout by Taylor Shepherd put an end to the inning.
“You’re facing one of the better pitchers in the area and she’s throwing 60-plus and it took us the first couple innings just to get caught up speed wise,” Fairborn head coach Tim Duncan said.
Beavercreek’s initial at-bats took a patient approach against Fairborn’s Hailey Webb and forced a near 40-pitch inning. An early throwing error also played a huge role in giving Beavercreek an early lead.
Webb walked the bases loaded after Haley Ferguson began the inning by reaching on a throw which couldn’t be hauled in by Mallorie Ferguson at first. After getting two outs, Webb was unable to get the third before walking in an early go-ahead run.
Beavercreek head coach Megan Barnett said it was an important start to see how her team was prepared at the plate to face the MVL’s strikeout leader this season.
“They were taking [Webb] pitch by pitch,” she said. “We knew that she threw a lot of junk. We knew that she had a lot of up and you could see the patience. It would be easy to want to go ahead and swing away, but they took her to 3-2 counts consistently, they took walks when you have bases loaded, which is not always easy to do.”
Adding two in the second and another run in the fourth, Beavercreek, the No. 2-seed, continued to grind out plate appearances and create small rallies when able. Webb limited damage admirably and despite three errors in the game from her defense, several good plays fielding plays assisted her.
But it was Haley Ferguson who completely frustrated hitters.
Fairborn as the 9-seed came into the game having scored at least seven runs in its last five contests, including 19 on Tuesday in the completion of a previously suspended contest. They came away with nothing on Wednesday as Haley Ferguson hurled her third shutout of the season while striking out 11 hitters while allowing four hits and three walks.
All of her shutouts have come along with at least 10 strikeouts.
Her only moment of danger came when the Skyhawks loaded the bases with two outs in the fourth, but Kaelyn Offill struck out to end the inning.
“Haley had a plan of attack from the beginning,” Barrett said. “And you know, she didn’t get all the calls she wanted to. Not everything was working, but she stuck with her plan of attack.
“And I think that’s what kept her successful because she knew they were going to be really resilient hitters and she was ready for what’s clearly a good hitting team.”
Fairborn is still considering whether it will make up its final regular season game on Friday against Xenia with the MVL Valley Division title wrapped up. A team primary made up of sophomores with only one senior regular got a taste of a step up in competition and is ready to ascend to the same level it faced at Beavercreek.
Duncan said he’s excited to see what his team can do in future seasons, but believes Wednesday’s loss is on him.
“If I ever have a quote in my life, it that’s a win goes to the girls and the loss goes to the coach because it’s the coach’s job to prepare you to play the game to win and if they don’t win, then it’s on me. Right?” Duncan said. “And that’s just the way it is. You just have to learn to accept that as a coach and move on.”
Meanwhile Beavercreek may see its time as now as it advances to face GWOC rival Centerville in Monday’s sectional final at Miamisburg High School. The two split a pair of regular season meetings and are poised to finish first and second in the standings.
“Every time the two of us get together it really is an all-out brawl from both teams,” Barnett said. “It’s just who comes out playing the hardest that day.”