Softball: Kenton earns first-ever share of WBL title

SHAWNEE TOWNSHIP — Kenton is no stranger to close games against its WBL opponents.

Out of its nine league games, the Wildcats have had eight games decided by four runs or less, and they’ve managed to pull out a victory in all but one of those nail-biters.

On Wednesday night with a share of its first-ever WBL title at stake, Kenton came through again in the clutch, plating two runs in the top of the seventh inning to secure a 4-2 win on the road over Shawnee.

With the win, Kenton (11-5, 8-1 WBL) earned at least a share of its first WBL title in softball, and first league championship in a girls sport since 1983.

“These girls earned this,” said Kenton coach Brooke Austin. “They’ve worked hard all season long and I think that has shown in our games. They’ve continued to fight no matter what the situation has been and they’ve had each others’ backs through it all.”

With the score tied at two in the top of the seventh inning, Emily Pees single-handedly manufactured the go-ahead run for the Wildcats.

Pees stepped up to the plate with one out and sent a ball to the left-center field fence for a double. She stole third base without a throw on the next pitch, then came home on a passed ball for the go-ahead run.

“She’s crazy on the bases,” Austin said of Pees. “She’s just so quick and so knowledgeable that she can see things before I see them sometimes. She’s a great player with a great softball mindset.

“To have one of our leaders on the team do that in the late innings is pretty awesome. She wanted to make a play like that all game long and she did the work to make it happen.”

Brynn Butler added an insurance run on an RBI single, then sat the Indians down with two fly-outs and a groundout in the final frame. Butler worked all seven innings and struck out nine batters, allowing just six hits and two unearned runs in the win. At the plate, she went 2 for 3, drove in a run, drew a walk and scored once.

Kenton led 1-0 after the top of the first inning when Butler came home on an error.

Brayla Butler protected that lead in the bottom half of the inning when she gunned down Addie Melson at home after catching a fly ball in left field.

Shawnee took a 2-1 lead in the bottom of the third inning on a pair of RBI groundouts from Addie Neth and Bailey Bullock, but Macee Heckathorn tied the game up in the top of the fifth on a single that plated Alexis Ratliff.

Lyla Rosas recorded three hits and Bullock was responsible for the Indians’ lone RBI.

Kenton worked around four errors on the evening, while Shawnee had four miscues.

The Wildcats are now one Defiance (11-6, 6-1 WBL) loss away from winning the conference title outright. The Bulldogs have two league games remaining against Wapakoneta (12-7, 5-3 WBL) on Friday and Shawnee (5-12, 1-6 WBL) next Wednesday.

Box score (r-h-e-)

Kenton 1000102 4-9-4

Shawnee 0020000 2-6-2

Kenton 4 (ab-r-h-rbi)

Emily Pees 4-1-1-0, Riley Totten 4-1-1-0, Brynn Butler 3-1-2-1, Macee Heckathorn 4-0-1-1, Brailyn Thacker 4-0-0-0, Brayla Butler 3-0-2-0, Cailen Brown 3-0-0-0, Emori Criner 3-0-1-0, CJ Newberry 1-0-0-0, Alexis Ratliff 2-1-1-0, Totals: 31-4-9-2

Shawnee 2 (ab-r-h-rbi)

Taylor Lichty 4-0-0-0, Addie Melson 4-0-1-0, Anna Menke 4-1-1-0, Riley Rhodes 3-1-0-0, Bailey Bullock 3-0-0-1, Addie Neth 3-0-0-0, Lyla Rosas 3-0-3-0, Gabby Jones 2-0-0-0, Maddy Hartman 1-0-0-0, Michaela Browning 3-0-1-0, Totals: 30-2-6-1

Pitching (ip-h-r-er-bb-so)

Brynn Butler (W) 7.0-6-2-0-0-9

Riley Rhodes (L) 7.0-9-4-2-1-7

Reach Chris Howell at 567-242-0468 or on Twitter at @Lima_Howell