Fairview’s up-and-coming softball program slammed into a wall Tuesday.
Five-time running 16th Region champion Ashland lowered the boom on the Lady Eagles 14-0 in five innings.
Fairview coach Lauren Ellis said she looked forward to seeing how much her team had closed the gap on coach Dave Miller’s Kittens.
It wasn’t what she anticipated. Ashland junior Megan Hensley threw her third one-hitter in as many starts this season, while the state’s 16th-ranked team rapped 17 hits and took advantage of a shaky Fairview defense.
“We were physically and mentally outmatched,” Ellis said. “So far this season we had played with everybody. We come in here and see the shiny Ashland across their chest. Dave does so great with them. They do so many great things. I told our players, you can’t play mediocre against an exceptional team.”
Especially one with an exceptional pitcher. Hensley, who earned second team All-State honors last season, mowed through the Lady Eagles’ lineup with nine strikeouts in the first three innings. She registered 11 overall and did not allow a ball to leave the infield.
“Megan is truly tough to hit,” said Ellis, a former Boyd County softball star. “I don’t think I saw a pitcher like her until I got to college. We had 18 hits last night at Ironton, but couldn’t get a bat on the ball today.”
Ashland led 10-0 before Fairview’s Sarah Dunn scratched out an infield single in the fourth inning for the visitors’ lone hit.
The Kittens tacked on four runs in the bottom of the inning, then Hensley retired the side in order to finish the romp.
“I think it really shows what this team is capable of,” Miller said. “When you get into a district game, you definitely want to make a statement. I think Lauren does a great job. We just pitched well, hit well and took them out of the game early.”
Ashland’s coach saw a focus from the Kittens that carried even beyond the final out.
“They were so zoned in, they didn’t realize the game was over,” Miller said of the 14-run mercy rule after five innings. “They wanted to keep going.”
Senior center fielder Sydney Whitt highlighted the Kittens’ attack with a two-run homer in the second inning and bases-loaded single in the fourth to plate two more runners.
Whitt is happy to be back in the groove after missing the 2013 postseason due to knee surgery.
Her first homer of the new season carried over the center-field fence after Sidney Campbell singled and courtesy runner Megan Murphy stole second.
“It was one of those that I didn’t feel it off the sweet spot,” Whitt said. “I’m just starting to get that confidence back. I definitely think this was kind of a turning point.”
The first seven batters in the Kittens’ lineup collected at least two hits apiece. McKenzie Vanover went 4-for-4, with the help of a first-inning double that deflected off an outfielder’s glove.
“Our hitting was awesome tonight,” Whitt said. “We didn’t have one strikeout. It felt great to get out and play like this in such amazing weather. It feels like 90 degrees.”
Hensley aided her own cause by driving in three runs and reaching safely all four trips — twice on errors. A dropped fly ball in right field opened the gates for the Kittens’ four-run first inning.
Fairview (4-4) committed two more errors in the second inning, when Ashland batted around and scored six times.
“I thought we were beat, but I don’t think we should have been mercied,” Ellis said. “We made too many fielding mistakes. We haven’t done that all year.”
The Kittens kept the base paths clogged every inning. Hayley Kilburn and Megan Griffith each supplied two-run doubles.
“We had some seeing-eye hits and some absolute rockets,” Miller said. “We hit up and down the lineup.”
Ashland (3-1) hopes to dodge rain in the forecast for later in the week, with the Kitten Spring Invitational scheduled to begin Thursday. Weather permitting, Cabell Midland will play Ashland at 4 p.m. that day.
FAIRVIEW 000 0 — 0 1 3
ASHLAND 361 4 — 14 17 0
T. Thompson and Kirk; Hensley and Campbell. W—Hensley. L—T. Thompson. 2B—Vanover (A), Griffith (A), Hensley (A). HR—Whitt (A).