The Advocate redid its youth sports submission setup about nine years ago.
Each week, we could set our watch to receiving an email from Steve Brownfield detailing the exploits of the Lakewood stars of tomorrow on the basketball court and particularly on the softball diamond as a part of the Licking County Starz travel organization.
Those little girls now are all grown up and shining brightly.
Brownfield died in 2011, but he would have been a proud grandfather this weekend. Granddaughters Bailey and Brenna Brownfield have led Lakewood back to the Promised Land — the Division II state tournament.
“I have played with probably all of them on one team or another growing up probably from T-ball until now,” Bailey Brownfield said. “We have just great chemistry and are able to work together really well.”
Lakewood beat Fairfield Union 5-0 on Saturday to win their first regional title since 2010, and the Lancers play LaGrange Keystone at 5:30 p.m. Thursday at Firestone Stadium. In the Lakewood softball community, five years between trips to Akron felt entirely too long.
Most of the current players were in the stands when the Lancers won three consecutive state titles from 2008 to 2010. Many of those players were either at recent postseason games or wishing luck through coach Criss Nadolson.
“I think they are saying, ‘Congratulations. Hope you get back there. Do it again,’ ” Nadolson said. “It’s great to hear from those kids, because all of these kids mean so much to you when you coach them for so long.”
Alyssa Patznick, who just completed her college career at Capital University, recently threw batting practice to the Lancers, and Bailey Brownfield recalls her experience playing with former teammate Kelsi Thompson.
Thompson’s home run and Patznick’s pitching gave the Lancers the third of their state titles. Brownfield would like to give Nadolson his fourth.
“Probably the thing I remember the most is, in the last state championship, Kelsi Thompson hit a home run, and just seeing how much they cheered and how much fun they had, we want to do that again,” Brownfield said.
Lakewood was ranked No. 1 in the state for a good portion of the season before finishing No. 3 in this past week’s final poll. The Lancers were undefeated until late April and wore a target into the district tournament as the No. 1 seed.
Nadolson has insisted throughout the season that pressure would not get to the Lancers. He has been right.
With the whole community watching, Lakewood played a flawless game in shutting down the feisty Falcons. Now, the Lancers have a chance to put Hebron back into the center of the softball universe.
“Every once in a while, you see a couple of the older players in the stands, and it is just kind of cool having that support,” sophomore pitcher Courtney Vierstra said. “A couple years ago, all of us were in the stands watching them at this point, wishing we could play here, and even further back than that, we were sitting in the stands watching them in Akron, so it’s just awesome, just the spirit that everyone has at Lakewood.”
Kurt Snyder is a sports writer for The Advocate. Tell him what you think at email@example.com.