A nonprofit publication of the Kentucky Center for Public Service Journalism

Dixie Heights claims 9th Region softball crown in high-scoring contest against Notre Dame Academy

By Chris Burkart
NKyTribune reporter

Notre Dame and Dixie Heights both came into Thursday’s 9th region title game sporting identical 20-13 won-loss marks and the contest was as close as those records.

In a game that took 2 ½ hours to play, Dixie Heights prevailed by a final score of 17-13 on the turf field at Beechwood High School.

The last time the Dixie Heights Colonels won the 9th Region softball title it was 2004 and they were led by a junior 1st Team All-State catcher named Sarah Gronefeld. Fifteen years later that same Sarah Gronefeld, who now goes by Sarah Osborne, is taking her team to the State Tournament as the Dixie Heights coach.

Prior to the game Notre Dame Head coach Joe Stephenson stressed the importance of hitting and solid defense as the keys to victory.

“For us right now it’s just stay out on the offensive side of it – we’ve been hitting the ball hard and if we keep that up we’ll have a good chance,” Stephenson said. “Also, our pitcher needs to be around the strike zone because we have a good defense.”

The strategy was sound, but failure to execute it ultimately led to Notre Dame’s downfall.

The Pandas out hit Dixie 14-8, but gave up 12 base on balls compared to only three for the Colonels.

Notre Dame started the game off with three consecutive singles, the last, from junior catcher Serena Paterno, produced an RBI single.

However, the inning ended on a line out – throw out double play. Dixie then scored a run on a passed ball.

Dixie standout Kaylee McGinn was ejected from the game following this collision at home plate. The play could have been disastrous, but it fired up Coach Sarah Osborne and may have sparked Dixie Heights to victory (photos by Dale Dawn).

The teams scored three runs each in the second inning.

Notre Dame got RBI triples from Izzy Gross and Kayari Suganuma with Gross scoring on a throwing error. The Colonels got an RBI double from senior Jenna Slusher and 2 bases loaded walks.

With two outs and the bases loaded in the Panda third, the third Dixie error of the inning produced a run, followed by a Suganuma RBI single, a Paterno two-run triple, and a RBI double from Jordan Brown.

Dixie would score five runs in its half of the third on only two hits, an RBI groundout to Slusher, a Mylee Eldrige single, and a bases loaded intentional walk to Kaylee McGinn. However, they lost four-time NKSCA First Teamer and Gold Glove first baseman, Kaylee McGinn who was ejected from the game on a collision at the plate.

Dixie Heights pitcher Addie Joyce bore down in the later innings to help lead the Colonels to the 9th Region title.

“I wasn’t happy with the call”, said Coach Osborne,  That’s a big play right there, but I had to keep myself in check, I had to make sure I was in check so my girls didn’t lose it, and they need to realize that while Kaylee McGinn is a huge, huge part of this team…we are going to go out there and win this for her. Our girls rallied around Kaylee and that motivated us and we refused to give up.”

That spark definitely seemed to work in its favor, as over the next four innings Dixie’s Addie Joyce would only allow four hits and the Colonels scored eight runs.

Osborne praised the sophomore pitcher, who was promoted to the starting job just a month ago.

“Addie was ready for this role, she is a tough kid who was battling a basketball injury, but she worked hard for this opportunity, and she knows the defense is there to help her out,” Osborne said. “I texted her this morning and told her I like her fight and grit. She’s done a great job this last month, I’m so proud of her.”

The Colonels put the game away in the fifth, sending 10 batters to the plate and scoring five runs on one hit and six consecutive walks.

Their defense only committed one error in the final four innings.

“We trust each other out on the field – we have each others backs,” said senior centerfielder Maggie Fields who was responsible for some spectacular running catches and an assist. “All year long we have been saying, ‘We Over Me,’ that’s been our motto. If someone makes an error we’re going to pick that player up, we’re not going to just hang our heads.”

Dixie would give itself some breathing room by plating three runs in the bottom of the sixth inning, with two coming in on a single by Ava Meyer.

Notre Dame scored two runs in the top of the seventh inning and had two runners on when Maddie Fields hauled in the final out of the game and the celebration began.

Box Score
Notre Dame Academy (20-14) 1-3-6-0-1-0-2—13-14-5
Dixie Heights (21-13) 1-3-5-0-5-3-X—17-8-5

ND – Olivia Meier 3-5; Kayari Suganuma 5-5, 3 triples, 3RBI; Serena Paterno 2-4, triple, 5RBI
Dixie – Ava Meyer 2-2, 2RBI; Jenna Slusher 1-4 3RBI; Mylee Eldrige 3-3, RBI; Kaylee McGinn 2RBI

Dixie Heights will take on 10th Region Champs Pendleton County (25-14) on Saturday at NKU in the State Sectional game.

Contact the Northern Kentucky Tribune at news@nkytrib.com

Related Posts

Leave a Comment