Mason teammates cheer on Margo Hutchison as she rounds the bases after her homerun against Lakota West during the varsity softball game at Mason High School on Wednesday, April 11. The Enquirer/ Amanda Davidson
Mason upset No. 1-ranked Lakota East 4-2 in a girls’ fast-pitch softball Friday, avenging a 5-4 loss to the Thunderhawks earlier this month.
Mason, ranked No. 4 in the Enquirer Division I area coaches’ poll, was led by senior pitcher Sara Browning, who threw a complete-game and went 2-for-3 with a double to earn her ninth win of the season.
Mason senior catcher Margo Hutchison went 2-for-3 and hit her sixth home run of the season. Lakota East is ranked No. 6 in the state according to the OHSAA Division I state poll, while the Comets are unranked in the state.
The Mason Comets completed a four-game sweep against Lakota high school baseball teams with a 4-2 victory at Mason Middle School Monday.
Overall, the Mason batters struggled to make contact against Lakota East senior ace Michael Conrad, but got a big hit when it mattered.
In the bottom of the third inning, Conrad, a University of Cincinnati signee, loaded the bases with a wild pitch on a strikeout, hit a batter and allowed another batter to reach on a fielder’s choice.
Then, with one out, Mason junior third baseman Drew Johnson got the Comets’ first hit of the game when he pulled a Conrad fastball down the third baseline for a 2-RBI single.
“Conrad was blowing some serious cheese. I just got a pitch in the zone and I was to get a soft grounder down the third baseline. It really got the team going and pumped up,” Johnson said. “Andrew McDonald then shut it down.”
After laboring through the first two innings, walking two and hitting two other batters, McDonald settled down, striking out seven batters and allowing two hits in six innings.
One of those hits was a solo home run by senior center fielder Alex Corna, which cleared the 345-foot marker in right-center field.
Mason shortstop Marcus Otte celebrates during a 6-2 win against Lakota East. Photo by Tony Tribble.
“It was an outstanding performance for him (McDonald). To do that against a ballclub like that, the defending state champions regardless of where they are now, is impressive,” Mason head coach Ken Gray said. “He just threw a heck of ballgame today.”
The Comets added a pair of insurance runs. One more in the third on an errant throw to the pitcher and another run on an error on a ground ball to the second baseman in the fourth.
Meanwhile, in a losing effort, Conrad also pitched well for the Thunderhawks, finishing the game by striking out 10 batters and allowing only two hits in five innings of work.
“When you strike out 10 and give up two hits that should be good enough for the win,” Lakota East head coach Ray Hamilton said. “He was good enough last Monday, when gave up four hits and struck out 12. When do that, you should win. Right now, we are not.”
The defending state champs are not winning and also lost Conrad’s last outing by the score of 4-2 against Hamilton March 26. Overall, the Thunderhawks are 2-4 overall and 1-3 in the Greater Miami Conference.
“This is the GMC. I don’t care who you play for, you have to have good at-bats,” Hamilton said. “There is real good pitching in this league and that will never change. Mason is a really good team, so hopefully we can learn from this, get better from this and not make the same mistakes we made today.”
The Comets, on the other hand, behind a deep pitching staff are off to 6-2 start and improve to 4-0 in the GMC.
“It has been a blast so far. We have a great team and we think that we can make a run at the GMC and maybe advance further later on in the season,” Johnson said.
The Mason girls’ gymnastics team will look to improve upon last season’s 12th-place finish in the state, but the Comets will once again have to hold off perennial contender Lakota East.
Mason has seven returning starters from last season’s district championship team. Four are seniors; the other three qualified for state individually.
Mason coach Kelly Wones knows her team’s experience will be key in returning to state for a third consecutive time.
“We have great leadership and experience on this team,” said Wones.
Monday is the official start for gymnastics around Ohio. The state meet is March 2-3 at Hilliard Bradley.
Mason’s seniors are Jenna Bovenzi, Rachel Hawthorne, Lauren Robertson, Lindsay Woehrmyer and newcomer Amethyst Gauthier, who had previously worked out for local private clubs.
“(Gauthier) has the potential to break any of the Comets’ school records on vault, bars, beam, floor, and especially the all-around,” said Wones.
Also keep an eye on Mason sophomore Brooke Middleton, who won on the vault at district and broke the school vault record last season.
Lakota East returns seven contributors from last season’s third-place district team. Sophomore Natalie Potts will again be key in a successful season. Potts qualified for state last season on beam, floor and all-around. At district, she finished third on the beam, and fourth on floor and all-around.
The Thunderhawks will need seniors Alexa Brownfield and Jennifer Shafer, along with juniors Jaime Etterling, Annie Davis and Lanie Owens to continue to improve.
“Last year we had a young team,” said co-coach Margi Sammons, who shares coaching responsibilities with Mardi Dagley. “This year we have seven returning athletes who have spent the summer increasing difficulty, working on originality, and are returning confident and motivated.”
Lakota West had success a year ago, but new coach Jerry Ballinger has the painstaking job of trying to replace three-time state qualifier Stephanie Powers, who graduated. The Firebirds will need sophomore Kassi Sturgill, who finished 11th on floor at districts, to step up.
Other area contenders who could qualify for state are Sycamore’s Sara Wesselkamper, who finished third last season in the all-around at districts, and Fairfield’s Alissa Finke, who was ninth on the vault and 10th on the bars at districts a year ago.
Turpin will depend on a core group of five seniors for improvement. The Spartans added Dora Gudmundsdottir, a senior foreign exchange student from Iceland who coach Gail Maundrell identified as an integral part of Turpin’s success.
This season’s district meet is Feb. 25 at Lakota East.