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Lady Falcons knock off Harrisburg in defense of L&C title

Justin Addison, Editor/Publisher
Posted 9/22/23

The Fayette Lady Falcons defeated Harrisburg 8-0 at home Thursday evening in Lewis & Clark Conference play.  

Thursday’s game marked the final between the two teams as part of the …

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Lady Falcons knock off Harrisburg in defense of L&C title


The Fayette Lady Falcons defeated Harrisburg 8-0 at home Thursday evening in Lewis & Clark Conference play. 

Thursday’s game marked the final between the two teams as part of the L&C. Next year, both teams will help form the Central State 8 Conference.

Fayette is the defending conference champion and, so far, holds a 5-0 record in the Lewis & Clark, with games against contenders Marceline and Salisbury on the horizon.

The Falcons improve to 15-4 on the year and 5-0 in the conference, extending their win streak to five games.

“They’re a traditional power in just about everything, so it’s always nice when we can come out on top against them,” said Fayette coach Mike James. 

Harrisburg coach Tessia Balke, in her first year leading the Lady Bulldogs, said she is working to change the culture for Harrisburg softball. “Harrisburg hasn’t always been known for softball, and we’re trying to change that.”

The Lady Bulldogs are now 5-10 overall, having lost their last six games. Two of those losses came last week in the Fayette Tournament. 

“They played hard. We had a tough weekend last weekend, and we had a really tough week this week. And we have even more tough games this Saturday. It hasn’t gone our way,” Balke said.

“I’m content with the game we played. We get on base; we just don’t cross the plate. And that’s what wins us ball games. We just have to find a way to finish by scoring runs,” Balke said.

The Harrisburg offense struggled right off the bat against Fayette ace Skylar Sunderland. The junior struck out at least two batters through the first three innings and retired one batter on strikes in each of the fourth, fifth, and sixth frames. 

Sunderland finished the day with 10 strikeouts. She allowed five hits and one walk in the shutout for her 11th win of the season in 14 starts.

The Falcons took an early two-run lead in the bottom of the second after leadoff batter, senior Addison Powell, and number-three hitter, freshman Addison Gibbs, walked. Then, with two outs, sophomore Leah Thies drove in both runners with a fly ball single to center field. 

The Falcons added three more runs in the bottom of the second. With two outs, Powell singled on a bunt to score sophomore Mariah Felten from third. Powell and freshman Paige Vroman later scored on an error after Gibbs sent a hard line drive to center field to make the score 5-0.

Fayette would add runs in each of the fourth, fifth, and sixth innings to win 8-0. Powell led the Lady Falcons at the plate, going a perfect 3-for-3 with a walk, three runs scored, and an RBI. Felten finished with two hits and a run scored. Gibs, Skylar Sunderland, Thies, Cayle John, and Whitley Sunderland each finished with one hit. Thies finished with a game-high two RBI. Skylar Sunderland had the team’s only extra-base hit with a leadoff double in the bottom of the fifth.

The Falcons took advantage of their speed, laying down bunts and singles to send runners around the base paths.

“We hit 13 or 14 home runs last year, and we’re not going to do that this year,” James said. “But we can play that way, and we can still play defense and pitch and still score runs. That’s kind of how we thought it would go, and I think we’re actually ahead of schedule.”

Freshman Jillian Stidham took the loss for the Lady Bulldogs. She allowed eight runs (four earned) on 10 hits with three walks and a strikeout.

Stidham is one of three freshman pitchers on the Harrisburg roster. The other is a sophomore. 

“I have a young core that we’re trying to shape,” Balke said.

The Bulldogs finished the day with five hits and a walk but struck out 10 times. Junior Macie Ellis led the team with two hits in three at-bats. Freshman Brette Ackman had the team’s only extra-base hit with a double in the top of the fifth. Seniors Kaitlyn Blakemore and Abby Rosson each singled.

James said the game was more of a challenge than the score reflected. “I thought [Harrisburg] played really well tonight. They made a lot of good plays and made us go the full seven, which is good,” he said. “I thought we played pretty well too. We only made one mistake really on defense. And we hit the ball well all night. All in all, solid.”

After two straight weekends with tournaments, the Falcons get a chance to rest before hosting Paris on Tuesday after the Advertiser had gone to press. On Thursday, Fayette travels to conference powerhouse Marceline for a 5 p.m. game. The final home game for Fayette will be against Pilot Grove on Monday, October 2.

In a schedule update, the Falcons will not make up the championship game from the Fayette tournament against Jamestown. Play was halted in the second inning because of a heavy downpour. Jamestown is unable to reschedule the game, so the two teams will likely split first place as co-champions.

Harrisburg was scheduled to face Marceline at home on Tuesday to begin the final stretch of the season. The Lady Dawgs travel to New Franklin tonight (Wednesday) and host Knox County on Thursday to end a 14-game stretch over the last 16 days.


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