Fankhauser’s Walk-Off Grand Slam Sends Lady Leopards to District Championship Game – Softball
#1 Louisville 5, #4 Lake 2
Alex Fankhauser hit a walk-off grand slam in the bottom of the seventh to lift the top seeded Louisville Leopards past the #4 Seed Lake Blue Streaks 5-2 in their DI Massillon District Semifinal Softball matchup Wednesday at the Eagles #190 Sports Complex. With the victory, Louisville improves to 22-1 on the season and advances to play the #2 Seed Perry Panthers in the District Championship Game on Thursday, May 17 at 5:00 PM.
Fankhauser, Sydney McKeever, and Teagan Rice all had 2 hits a piece for the Lady Leopards on offense. Sarah Cantley also pitched a complete game, gave up 2 runs on 6 hits, and struck out 10 to improve to 18-1 on the season.
While the stormy weather stayed away, lightning struck the Lady Leopards District Championship aspirations just three pitches into the contest. The Blue Streaks lead-off hitter Lauren McMillan hit a solo homer over the left field fence to put Lake ahead 1-0 before Louisville could even get settled in. The opening inning home run was eerily simliar to the first inning home run by Emily Ickes in the Lady Leopards home regular season meeting with the Blue Streaks back on April 30.
Louisville rallied for a 2-1 win that day and they rallied again in the bottom of the fourth inning in Wednesday’s District Semifinal. The tying run was created by the pure stubborn willpower of Cantley. With 1-out and no one on base, she faced a 2-2 count. Cantley proceeded to foul off 10 of the next 11 pitches before drawing a rare 16-pitch walk. The Junior Pitcher was replaced at first by speedy courtesy runner Kaylee Nolte. Two pitches later, Shae Thomas hammered a fly ball off the fence in center field and Nolte motored around to score the tying run all the way from first.
Each team had opportunities to score over the next two innings, but neither could punch a run home. Lake had 2 on and 2 out in the fifth, but Cantley got the next batter to strike out swinging. Louisville also loaded the bases with two outs in the sixth inning, but a 6-5 fielder’s choice vanquished the threat.
Lightning struck a second time in the seventh as the Blue Streaks took a 2-1 advantage. Sydney Baker hit a 2-out RBI double to the far deep left corner of the field scoring Hannah McMillen from first base. Lake broke tie ball games with late rallies to win both previous District Semifinal meetings with Louisville in 2012 and 2017. Everything looked to be aligned with the previous scripts heading into the bottom of the seventh.
But the 2018 Lady Leopards not only rewrote the script in the last of the seventh, they incinerated it. McKeever popped a pitch to shallow right center field that landed for a single to start the Louisville rally. The Leopards elected to sacrifice the runners over on a bunt from Kaycee Ollis, who currently has the second highest slugging percentage on the team. The move paid dividends as Lake intentional walked Cantley to load the bases for Fankhauser, who just happened to lead the team in slugging percentage.
Needing just a sacrifice fly to get the tying run home, Fankhuaser was given the green light to swing away. On the third pitch of her at-bat she launched a 1-1 pitch to far left field in almost the same spot that Lake scored their go-ahead run. Only this hit wasn’t coming back as it wrapped just inside the left field fair pole to clear the 195-foot fence marker for a game-winning Grand Slam. The most important hit in Lady Leopards Softball history gave way to an elated release of emotion as Frankhauser was mobbed by her teammates at home plate. Relief, excitement, tears of joy, and more emotions flooded throughout the team that was headed to their first District Championship game since 2013.
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UP NEXT: The Louisville Leopards Softball Team will next challenge the #2 Seed Perry Panthers in the DI Massillon District Championship Game on Thursday, May 16 at 5:00 PM.
Updated DI Massillon District Softball Bracket
VARSITY SOFTBALL BOX SCORE
LEOPARDS 5, BLUE STREAKS 2
LAKE BLUE STREAKS SOFTBALL VARSITY BATTING STATS
LAKE BLUE STREAKS SOFTBALL VARSITY PITCHING STATS
LOUISVILLE LEOPARDS SOFTBALL VARSITY BATTING STATS
LOUISVILLE LEOPARDS SOFTBALL VARSITY PITCHING STATS
Records: Louisville 22-1