Led by the pitcher-catcher combination of junior Ashley Sharp and sophomore Ciara Incorvati, Lakota West – No. 3 in The Enquirer’s preseason poll – out pitched and out hit rival No. 2 Lakota East in a 5-0 win on the road Monday.
Coming into the game, Incorvati didn’t look like it, but she was nervous.
It was the first time that the Lakota West sophomore played in the one of the region’s biggest softball rivalries north of I-275.
In her first at-bat, she found herself in front of Lakota East senior pitcher Lea Buckenmyer, who entered the game with 197 career strikeouts in 215 innings and a win-loss record of 43-11.
Experience didn’t win this battle, however, as Incorvati smacked a Buckenmyer fastball to left-center field for a double. Two batters later, Incorvati scored the game’s first run on a soft ground ball that sophomore Haley Johnson tapped up the middle of the infield with two outs in the second inning.
“I was a little nervous because it was my first varsity game playing East, but we all have each other’s back on this team,” said Incorvati, who went 3-for-4, with two doubles and two runs batted in. “My bat just came alive today.”
Incorvati’s lively bat was infectious as West piled up 9 hits and 5 runs to win the first of two matchups that will be played between the two school district rivals. Game 2 will take place April 29 at Lakota West.
After doubling in the second inning, Incorvati doubled in a run in the third inning and singled home another in the fifth inning.
As well as stepping up at the plate, the varsity rookie also played a key role behind the plate.
“She is doing great, calling the game behind the plate and hitting,” Sharp said. “She is one of the best blockers that I ever pitched too. I can trust her back there.”
That trust helped Sharp, who is committed to Wright State, strike out 5 in 7 shutout innings. Sharp also had a no-hitter going into the sixth inning, which was broken up by sophomore second baseman Kylie Dempsey.
“I try not to think about it. The minute you think about it, it gets broken up,” Sharp said about her no-hitter opportunity. “They just started to hit, but they are good hitters.”
After Dempsey, junior outfielder Brooke Dendler singled to give the Thunderhawks two base runners with no outs and the heart of their order coming up. Sharp was able to get the next three hitters out in order without giving up a run.
In the 7th, Sharp walked junior first baseman Taylor Fair to begin the inning and then gave up a double to junior third baseman Gracie Sprockett. Again, with no outs and two runners on, the Thunderhawks failed to score.
The biggest scare for the Firebirds, however, came in the third inning when junior center fielder Alyssa Hedric slid into Lakota East freshman catcher Mackenzie Rieck at a play at the plate. The tag was late and Hedric scored, making the score 2-0 at the time, but Hedric’s left knee buckled as it made contact with Rieck’s left foot.
After the play, Hedric, who is committed to Miami University, grabbed her knee in pain and didn’t return to the game. After the win, Hedric had ice on her injury and said the knee felt “a little tight.” Lakota West coach Keith Castner said that she will have the knee looked at on Tuesday.
W – Sharp (3-2, 5 K’s); L – Buckenmyer (1-2, 4 K’s). Leaders: LW – Hedric 2B; Brown 2-3, 2 RBIs; Cummins RBI; Incorvati 3-4, 2 2Bs, 2 RBIs. LE – Sprockett 2B. Records: LW (4-3, 4-0 in GMC); LE (1-2, 1-2).