Lady Spartans end 2018 campaign with quarterfinals appearance

SMYRNA – Lake Forest High’s softball program, with a 12-6 regular season record, earned the No. 10 seed in the DIAA state tournament and kicked off the first round with a 4-1 upset win over No. 7 Indian River on the road Monday, May 21.

The win, a game in which senior starting pitcher Katie Stahre surrendered just six hits and one run in her seven innings and senior Kayla Thompson hit a home run, set the Lady Spartans up with a quarterfinals showdown against No. 2 Smyrna the following day.

The No. 2 Lady Eagles, with a 17-1 regular season, would put an end to Lake’s season with a 3-1 quarterfinal round victory Wednesday, May 22.

Senior Katie Stahre pitched 13.0 innings, surrendering four runs (two earned) and striking out eight batters in two DIAA playoff games this spring (The Chronicle/Marc Clery).

Stahre struck out four batters and surrendered just three runs on five hits against the Lady Eagles’ lineup while fellow senior Brooke Glanden hit a sixth-inning home run in the loss.

It marked the final time the senior class – Stahre, Thompson, Glanden and Brittany Baker – would hit the field together as Lady Spartans.

“The senior class has been the best asset, as a group, to this team,” said Lake head coach Ashlie Tatman of her four senior girls. “They really pulled it together at the end and fought with their heart and gave it their all. They’re going to be deeply missed.”

In the team’s two playoff games, the four seniors would go a combined 8-for-25 (.320 average) at the plate with a pair of homers and five runs batted in.

In the quarterfinal loss, a pair of first-inning runs for Smyrna helped get the momentum going early for the Lady Eagles.

Senior starting pitcher Jessica Anderson’s 5.1 innings of four-hit ball and an all-around solid defensive effort helped to lead the Eagles to the win.

“I knew Lake had big hitters on their team, so I knew I had to work my spots and work my off-speed today,” she said of her approach in the pitcher’s circle. “I knew I just had to relax and rely on my team mostly.”

After recording just four hits and three runs in the regular season match-up against Lake Forest – a game in which the Eagles would also come away with a 3-1 win – head coach Nicki Shirey knew runs would be tough to come by the second time around.

“We knew it was going to be a tight game. Our defense held solid, our pitching was great today, so I’m proud of every one of the girls,” Shirey said.

Senior Kayla Thompson hit a homer for Lake in the team’s first-round win over IR and added a single in the team’s quarterfinal round (The Chronicle/Marc Clery).

After seeing Stahre in the regular season, Smyrna’s hitters made sure to make adjustments heading into the playoff rematch.

“I expected Stahre to be tough,” Shirey said. “She really works her corners, I knew we had to adjust at the plate and go with whatever pitch she was throwing, and the girls really did that today.”

Although Stahre struck three Eagles’ hitters out looking in the bottom of the first, damage was done as Lexi Moore and Kaelyn Press scored the two runs off a throwing error. The runs provided Anderson an early two-run cushion in the pitcher’s circle.

Junior outfielder Abigail Mace provided a crucial insurance run with an RBI double off the left field fence in the fourth inning, scoring Madison Steele and putting Smyrna ahead 3-0.

Anderson would hurl a scoreless five innings with six strikeouts before giving up her lone run in the top of the sixth inning – Glanden’s opposite field solo shot over the left field fence.

Upon Glanden’s homer, Shirey brought in freshman Payton Dixon to take over in relief.

Dixon would surrender just a pair of hits in the final 1.2 innings to complete the victory.

“I thought they battled well,” coach Tatman said of her Lake squad. “I wish that we would have battled a little bit more in the beginning, but it was mainly nerves and it came down to a couple of plays.”

After such a tight-knit playoff loss, coach Tatman made sure to address her players one last time

“We talked about our season and how I enjoyed coaching them all year,” she said of her post-game talk. “They’re a great group of kids and I know that they’re going to be successful in anything they do. I told them that everything happens for a reason. It just wasn’t our day.”

Smyrna High went on to defeat Charter School of Wilmington in the semifinals and Appoquinimink, 16-7, in Saturday afternoon’s championship to win its first state title since 1993.

Sports Editor Ben Heck can be reached at bheck@newszap.com.

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