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Fairfield Lions advance to district finals with win over Ironton St. Joseph

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Fairfield's Zane Matthews celebrates during the Lions' two-out, four-run rally in the fourth inning. (HCP Photos/Stephen Forsha)
Stephen Forsha, The Highland County Press

CHILLICOTHE — For the third consecutive season, the Fairfield Lions are going to play in the district finals. 

On Saturday afternoon, the No. 1 seeded Lions used early scoring and strong pitching to win their Division III SE District Semifinal game with a 4-2 victory over the No. 8 Ironton St. Joseph Central Flyers at VA Memorial Stadium.

On the sunny Saturday afternoon, the Lions (18-4) scored all four of their runs in the bottom of the fourth inning.

"The four runs early on set the tone for the game a little bit,” Fairfield head coach Kyle Zimmerman said. “The district finals for a third year in a row, we have looked at it every year and never got to achieve it [winning the district title]. We’ve got to take one game at a time, and that happens to be our next one. We’re going to go home, regroup, focus and come out ready.

“We played a very good team. Ironton’s a good team, and take your hats off to them. A 12-4-1 record speaks for itself. We're happy to get through it.”

The four runs and the first base runner for the Lions in the second inning all came with two outs, starting with a six-pitch full-count walk by Carson Chandler. 

The inning stayed alive with Corey Zimmerman reaching first on an error, allowing Chandler to go from first to third.

Zane Matthews followed with a single to centerfield, scoring Chandler, while Zimmerman moved to second base.

Fairfield’s one-run lead went to three runs as Gabe Fouch smashed a two-out line drive triple to the centerfield wall for two RBI, as Zimmerman and Matthews raced around the bases to score runs for a 3-0 lead.

Fouch then made it a 4-0 lead as he took home plate on a passed ball.

Fairfield totaled six hits in the district semifinal win, with Matthews finishing 2-for-4 with one run and one RBI. 

Fouch finished 1-for-3 with one run, two RBI and a walk. Fouch’s aforementioned triple was the lone extra-base hit for the Lions.

Corbin Willey finished 1-for-3, while teammate Cody Frost was 1-for-2 with a walk. Zimmerman was 1-for-3 with a run scored.

The Lions also had two walks from Cade Miller, while Chandler scored a run and had a walk.

Now for the pitching of Fairfield as Miller threw 110 pitches, 68 for strikes. Miller in the win allowed two runs (one earned) on three hits and three walks, with 11 strikeouts.

“Cade’s performance is typical of what we've come to expect from our veteran pitchers this season,” Zimmerman said. “I’ve got Cade down for 11 strikeouts. He got in a little bit of trouble at times, but he never really let himself get rattled. He showed his maturity on the mound, which you really want to see, and at the end of the day, you know, he had the guts and drive to stick in there and get it done.”

Miller struck out two batters in the first inning, retiring the first three batters in order with a groundout to second base and two consecutive strikeouts.

Miller struck out the side in the second, facing three batters. The top of the third saw Miller strike out the first two batters, followed by a single by the Flyers, only to see the runner eventually out on the bases for the third out of the inning.

In the fourth, the Flyers had two base runners, but Miller was still strong with two strikeouts in the inning.

Miller kept St. Joseph scoreless in the top of the fifth with two fly ball outs and a strikeout.

The Flyers scored both of their runs in the top of the sixth with two hits, a walk and an error, but Miller had a strikeout in the inning.

In the top of the seventh, Miller forced three consecutive ground ball outs to seal the win.

“Miller’s hand cramped up [in the seventh],” Zimmerman said. “He had a cramp in his thumb on his gloved hand. When I went out, he said, ‘Coach, I want to finish this,’ and at that point in time, we had two outs and nobody on, and I wasn’t going to pull him at that point in time. I said, ‘OK, you get through it, we’ll get through it.’ He made it, he managed to make it happen and we got the W.”

Next for the Lions is a return trip back to VA Memorial Stadium on Monday, May 20 vs. the No. 5 seeded Racine Southern Tornadoes at 4 p.m. in the Division III SE District Finals.

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