Kylie Ringler

Crestview's Kylie Ringler prepares to deliver to the plate during last week's game at Hillsdale.

OLIVESBURG — Kylie Ringler and Autumn Bailey will be college rivals next year, but Crestview’s dynamic duo is on a mission this spring.

The Kent State-bound Ringler and Bailey, an Akron recruit, have the Cougars in line for a fourth straight Firelands Conference championship. Crestview (16-4, 8-1) leads Mapleton (13-9, 8-2) by one game in the loss column with a week remaining in the regular season.

A hard-throwing right-hander, Ringler is the area’s most dominant pitcher. She’s 15-1 with a 0.27 earned run average and 209 strikeouts in 104.2 innings pitched.

Meanwhile, Bailey is batting a robust .603 with 16 runs batted in from the leadoff spot. She has seven doubles, three triples, four home runs and 16 stolen bases in 20 attempts.

In last week’s 7-0 win over perennial small-school juggernaut Hillsdale, Ringler scattered three hits while striking out 15 and helped herself at the plate with a pair of singles. Bailey was a perfect 4-for-4 with two doubles, two runs, three stolen bases and a run batted in.

Ringler took over as Crestview’s ace during her sophomore season. She was 17-2 with a 0.74 ERA and 226 strikeouts in 123 innings of work. She was an All-Ohio honorable mention selection in Division III.

“She’s a workhorse,” Crestview coach Aaron Goon said. “Kylie has thrown a lot of pitches, but she wants the ball.”

Bailey batted .424 with 14 RBIs and 27 runs as a freshman in 2018, but had her sophomore season come to abrupt end when she broke her leg sliding into second base against Plymouth. She appeared in just 10 games, batting .645.

Like every other program in the state, Crestview lost the 2020 season to the COVID-19 pandemic.

“(Bailey) was so looking forward to last year after what happened as a sophomore,” Crestview coach Aaron Goon said. “I think she was so anxious at the beginning of this year, because it had been almost two years since she got to play high school. She was just a little impatient.

“Every once in a while she still has that. She swings a little early and gets a pop-up here and there because she doesn’t want to wait on that good pitch. People know she can hit so they don’t throw her good ones right away. They try to make her be patient.”

While the Cougars have hung three straight Firelands Conference banners, postseason success has eluded them. Crestview was the top seed in the Division III Lexington sectional/district in 2019 but was upset by Bucyrus in the sectional final. The Cougars reached the district final in 2018 before falling to Galion.

Goon beefed up the schedule this spring to get the Cougars tournament ready. Hillsdale and Ashland were added to a non-conference schedule that already included Clear Fork, Loudonville and Northwestern.

“Playing these good teams is only going to help us for our postseason run,” Ringler said after blanking Hillsdale. “We know Hillsdale is going to give us a good game.”

Crestview received the No. 4 seed in the rugged New Riegel sectional/district tournament. The Cougars have a first-round bye and will open tournament play at home against either Margaretta or Western Reserve in the sectional finals at 5 p.m. May 14.

“We feel like our schedule will get us ready (for the postseason),” Bailey said. “We’re looking forward to it.”

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I have covered high school sports in Richland County since 2000. Email him at curt@richlandsource.com or follow him on Twitter: Follow @curtjconrad on twitter.

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