Big fifth inning leads Lady Raiders past Spartans
A five-run fifth inning propelled the Warren East softball team to a dominant 7-3 win over rival South Warren on Thursday evening at South Warren High School.
The Lady Raiders – who remain undefeated on the season with a perfect 16-0 record – built a 2-0 lead after two innings before the Spartans scored in the fourth to get within 2-1.
East responded in the ensuing frame by plating those five runs – highlighted by a bases-clearing double from Harley Stringfield and two-run homerun by Hailey Hymer – to go up 7-1 and pull away.
“Anytime you can get a district win – especially in our district – it’s big,” Warren East coach Philip McKinney said. “I don’t care what sport it is. I was happy with our at-bats. I told them we were leaving some runs out there, so 2-0 could’ve easily been 4-0 – but it wasn’t. I’ve got a more mature team that being up 2-0 in a big district game didn’t get tight. They just kept swinging the bats.”
Warren East – now 3-0 in District 14 play with wins over Warren Central, Greenwood and South Warren – finished with 13 hits as a team and four different players registered multi-hit performances.
While Kelsey Sparks led the way with a 3-for-5 showing at the plate, Stringfield went 2-for-4 with three RBI, Hymer went 2-for-5 with two RBI and Olivia Price went 2-for-4 with an RBI of her own.
“As soon as I started walking up to the plate, I was just like, ‘Get one through,’” Stringfield said. “That was my main focus just to get one through and let at least a couple runs score.”
Defensively, Lady Raiders’ pitcher Katie Gardner – a Tennessee-Martin signee and Kentucky Miss Softball candidate – allowed just five hits and three runs while tallying 16 strikeouts in a complete-game fashion. Gardner threw 118 total pitches, with 79 of those being called strikes.
“There’s certain pitchers in the state that don’t get hit hard – and when they do it’s like ‘Oh my gosh, what’s wrong? Well, there’s nothing wrong,” McKinney said. “South’s got very good hitters and when you get deep into the game and you’ve thrown a lot, it happens. She’s got to battle 1-9 against them and whoever else we play. I thought she really set the tone.
“She pretty much showcased her skill tonight as one of the best pitchers in the state.”
Warren East stuck first in the top of the first inning with a run and pair of hits. After Hymer hit a single, Price tripled into deep left field to score Hymer and make it 1-0 early. Kya Elkin’s RBI single in the second inning soon doubled the Lady Raiders’ lead to 2-0.
South Warren (7-4, 0-2) answered in the bottom of the fourth with Alexis Isable’s RBI single to get within 2-1, but East quickly caught fire in the next frame and scored five runs to build a comfortable 7-1 advantage.
Taylor Enlow’s two-run shot in the sixth cut the Spartans’ deficit to 7-3, but that’s as close as they would get to the hot-hitting Lady Raiders.
“We said if we could take back that spot right there in the fifth inning when you’ve got a 1-2 count on a No. 9 batter and throw the pitch a little bit higher – where it was supposed to be – it’s the difference in the ball game,” South Warren coach Kelly Reynolds said. “I thought our girls did well as far as battling back and not giving up when it was 7-1.
“We fought back and fought back.”
Both clubs return to action Friday as Warren East hosts Butler County at 5:30 p.m. and South Warren welcomes in McCracken County for a 6 p.m. contest.