Miami East softball plays in D-III state semifinal Friday

CASSTOWN — The Miami East softball team is back in the Final Four for the first time since the first state tournament in 1978.

And the Vikings hope this season ends just as well.

In that first season, a Viking team coached by Pat Palcic went 17-0 and won the Class A state championship.

East is two wins from that accomplishment and will play Massillon Tuslaw as 3 p.m. Friday at Firestone Stadium in the D-III semifinals.

The two teams got there in very different ways Saturday.

While Miami East — 24-4 — run-ruled Fredericktown 10-0 in five innings, Tuslaw was in a three-hour marathon with Youngstown Urusline.

The Mustangs were down to their last out in the 13th inning, trailing 3-2 with the bases empty before rallying for two runs to earn their first-ever trip to the state softball tournament.

Miriam Peterson had awalk-off single to finish off the rally.

Beyond that though — looking at Tuslaw is very much like looking in a mirror for East.

While Miami East pitcher Kyleigh Kirby is in the top five in the state with 13 home runs and more than 50 RBIs, Tuslaw is also led by its standout pitcher Meridth Rankl.

“I think they are very similar to our team,” Miami East softball coach Brian Kadel said. “She is a really good pitcher, who is also their best hitter. She is the one that makes them go.”

Kirby, who has a 22-3 record on the mound with a 3.53 ERA, batted .588 during the regular season and also had 11 doubles and triple.

East is a balanced lineup with a lot of weapons.

First baseman Kayly Fetters slugged five home runs during the regular season and leftfielder Kiera Kirby hit two.

Centerfielder Kalli Teeters had 32 RBIs during the regular season, Fetters had 29 and Reagan Howell had 24 and second baseman Abigail Kadel and Kiera Kirby both had 19.

Rightfielder Jacqueline Kadel and Teeters are both batting over .400.

And while it may not have shown at the start of the season, the Vikings have gotten better with every game.

“We knew we had a good group of players returning,” Kadel said. “We felt like we could get to the district finals. We didn’t know if we could win district or not. To accomplish what we have, I think that has been a surprise for the kids.”

And Kadel said it was an adjustment midway through the season that helped the Vikings.

“I think we were just focused on winning or losing the game,” he said. “When we just started focusing on one pitch at a time, one inning at a time, I think that is when things turned around.”

And the Vikings will continue that philosophy this weekend.

“We will get up there (Akron) Thursday afternoon and get settled in,” Kadel said. “We will go over (to Firestone Stadium) and watch one of the games and get the lay of the land. The big thing is just to get our focus back (after all the excitement of last weekend).”

The team is well aware of the 1978 team and what they accomplished.

“We talked about that,” Kadel said. “They had a number of good athletes on that team. But, they were on a mission (to win the first state title) and they accomplished that goal.”

And this group of Vikings is now two wins from the same finish to their mission.