SOLON — For a program like this, three years between state-tournament appearances is a lengthy wait.
“I know,” said Solon pitcher Kayla West. “We’ve been wanting since Day 1 to get back.”
West pitched a two-hitter, picked up two hits of her own and lifted 11th-ranked Solon past Benton Community, 5-0, in a Class 3A softball regional semifinal Friday night at the Solon High School athletics complex.
The Spartans (23-15) struck for two runs in the first inning, three more in the second and advanced to Monday’s regional final opposite No. 13 Mount Vernon (26-11), a 3-2 winner over West Marshall. First pitch will be 7 p.m. at Solon.
Solon’s last state appearance was 2016.
“We really want this,” said West, who struck out five and retired the final seven batters she faced.
Solon and Mount Vernon split a doubleheader June 4.
Benton (15-23) was blanked for just the third time this season. Credit West, and credit a Solon defense that played errorless ball behind her.
“I’m really confident that they will make the plays,” West said. “We scored some runs early, and that gave us a nice cushion.”
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Bobcats Coach Eric Stenberg said, “(West) threw well. She hit her spots. Her riseball ... when she hits the belt-high one, it makes it hard to stay off the next one that’s higher.”
Solon scored a pair of unearned runs in the bottom of the first. With two outs, Hilary Wilson doubled and Skylar Stookey was intentionally walked. Taylor Moore’s sharp ground ball was misplayed, scoring one run, then Ava Stebral singled home another.
RBIs from Sarah Heick (fielder’s choice), Stookey (walk) and Moore (sacrifice fly) pushed the margin to 5-0 in the second, and the Spartans coasted from there.
West started the second-inning rally with a double; she was 2-for-3 out of the 8 spot.
“The bottom of the order has gotten better as the season has gone along,” West said. “We’re all confident hitters right now.”
Benton returns eight starters for next season.
SOLON 5, BENTON COMMUNITY 0
3A Regional Semifinal, at Solon
Benton 000 000 0 — 0 2 2
Solon 230 000 x — 5 7 0
Kate Buscher and Brielle Hogan. Kayla West and Skylar Stookey. W — West (15-5). L — Buscher (13-15).
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