Softball: Fort Loramie beats Covington 15-7 for 1st district title since 2011


VERSAILLES Fort Loramie’s nine seniors hang a team picture in the dugout every game. The image was taken when they were seventh graders and played as a team in a league in Sidney.

“It’s of us when we won the Sidney league championship,” Fort Loramie senior pitcher Kate Ruhenkamp said. “… Everyone has stayed other than two. We all know each other really well. So it’s really good to have each other here.”

Many of the team’s players have had more pictures taken in high school during deep tournament runs in other sports. As of Saturday, all can say they have in softball as well.

The Redskins beat Covington 15-7 in Versailles to earn the program’s second Division IV district championship and first since 2011. The squad advances to face Tri-Village in a regional semifinal on Wednesday at Northmont High School.

“Epic,” Fort Loramie coach Brad Turner said of the seniors’ journey over the last four years.

“The seniors have been through so many highs and lows and the maturity that they have gained with everything has all played a factor in this. Beyond the practice, they have come together. It’s been fun.”

There was added emotion on Saturday due to the death of Damian Bruns. Bruns was a senior and a standout athlete at Fort Loramie; he died after an ATV crash northwest of Versailles late Thursday.

Saturday’s district final was originally scheduled for Friday evening but was postponed.

“We had a meeting yesterday, and we talked it over with the group,” Ruhenkamp said of the postponement. “It’s a very tragic loss for everyone in our grade and everyone in the community really. And so we had to just fight through it and just think that we’re going to do this for Damian. And we did that.”

Fort Loramie (22-9) lost in a sectional final in 2021 and district finals the last two years, including a 2-1 nail-biter to Riverside in extra innings a year ago.

The squad was voted the No. 3 seed in the Dayton D-IV sectional this year and has backed that up. They have scored 10 or more runs in all their tournament games.

“I’m so excited that we made it this year,” Ruhenkamp said between taking group pictures with teammates. “Senior year, going out with a bang, I guess.

“It’s been a lot of work, definitely. From November to now, we’ve been practicing and working our butts off to be able to be here.”

Turner said the seniors have been among the best leaders he’s coached.

“It’s not to say that we haven’t had great senior leaders before, but when you’ve got nine seniors, the maturity level in practice, the focus, it’s special,” Turner said.

“These are kids who have softball as their number one sport. Even girls that are playing two or three sports, softball is a priority for him. We’ve had incredible success throughout for Loramie sports. To have the commitment that we’ve had has been special with this group.”

Ruhenkamp has been a four-year starter for the Redskins. She split time in the circle early in her career but is the sole ace now.

The Buccaneers (21-8) entered Saturday averaging a little less than 11 runs per game. They didn’t hit much off Ruhenkamp until late innings, but they did get some early hits to put on pressure, including a two-run home run by Jayda McClure in the second, which cut the gap to 3-2 after Fort Loramie had scored three in the top half.

“I just had to keep trusting my teammates 100 percent,” Ruhenkamp said. “I had to trust them, and everything will go perfectly as planned.”

Ruhenkamp stayed cool throughout, including when the Buccaneers scored three in the seventh to narrow the final gap. She gave up six earned runs on eight hits and five walks and struck out five batters.

“She fights out there,” Turner said. “… And her bat has come alive. She had a real good year offensively last year. And she’s just made some tough outs throughout much of the season. But man, she’s been hot at the plate too.”

Fort Loramie scored five runs in the top of the third to take an 8-2 lead and cruised from there.

The Redskins’ batters blasted 16 hits off two Covington pitchers; they drew five walks and struck out three times.

“I have all kinds of respect for (coach) Dan Cain and the Covington softball program,” Turner said. “I am very aware that they have girls who could make be making big contributions for them that are injured, including pitchers.

“… But to beat a program like that and to hit like that, we had to have discipline and put bats on balls. We made some good things happen.”

Ruhenkamp was 3 for 5 at the plate with one double and catcher Jayna Ruhenkamp was 2 for 4 with 3 RBIs and one double.

Carissa Meyer was 3 for 4 with 3 RBIs and right fielder Morgan Pleiman was 2 for 4 with two doubles and one walk. First baseman Carlie Goubeaux was 2 for 4 and center fielder Laney Barhorst was 2 for 3 with 1 RBI and one walk.

Third baseman Alex Rose hit one home run and drove in three runs and short stop Autumn Turner hit one home run, drove in two runs and drew two walks.

Turner said every player made an impact, whether at the plate or defensively.

“What Carlie Goubeaux does for us at first base is incredible,” Turner said. “What Carissa Meyer has gone through, to come back and for her to be making contributions is big. I can’t single anybody out. It was a collective effort.

“The seniors as a collective group are great. Three of the girls, Ashlee Hess came off the bench and courtesy ran, and Ava Stewart and Ashlyn Eilerman, they’re just as big as any of the other nine seniors on the team. It’s awesome.”

Wednesday’s regional semifinal against the Patriots (23-1) is scheduled to start a 2 p.m. in Clayton. The winner will face the winner of Minster vs. Ansonia/Fayetteville-Perry in a regional semifinal at 5 p.m. on Friday.

“An overwhelming majority of our girls have competed at the state tournament in some level, not just basketball,” Turner said. “… We have kids who have been on the big stage. It’s going to be fun. We are excited and honored to be able to get to this next stage.”

Ruhenkamp said the squad is excited for the chance to earn a state berth and said it will be a fun experience for the whole squad, especially the seniors.

While not all nine seniors see much time on the field, Ruhenkamp said all are a valuable part of the team.

“It’s very good that they are all still around and are participating and cheering,” Ruhenkamp said. “There’s not one time where they’re on the bench quiet. So that really helps. It brings up the energy in the dugout.”

They, and all the Redskins, will get the chance to cheer again on Wednesday at Northmont.

And if they make it to Friday, more group pictures may get taken.

Reach Sidney Daily News editor Bryant Billing at 937-538-4822, or follow @BryantBillingSDN on Facebook or @TopBillingSport on X (Twitter).

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