Gardner leads Lady Raiders past Daviess County, into Lexington
When Katie Gardner is on, so is Warren East.
Behind an all-around dominant performance by the senior Kentucky Miss Softball candidate, which included a two-hitter with 12 strikeouts on the mound and a pair of home runs with five RBI at the plate, the Lady Raiders rolled to a 10-1 win over Daviess County on Saturday in the KHSAA Softball Semi-State 2 matchup at the WKU Softball Complex.
With East’s win, it now advances to the quaterfinal round of the KHSAA Fast Pitch Softball State Tournament and will meet the Ashland Blazer/Johnson Central winner next Friday at the University of Kentucky’s John Cropp Stadium in Lexington.
“One of the goals this year for me, I wanted this group to be one the first eight (teams) to go play in this new format at UK,” Warren East coach Philip McKinney said. “That’s what I wanted. I wanted that for our girls, for our community … I wanted it really bad. I wanted to be one of those first eight.
“Now it’s here, and we’re just so excited to be going to Lexington.”
Warren East — which improved to 34-2 on the season — trailed 1-0 after the opening inning but put together back-to-back three-run frames in the second and third to build a 6-1 lead. The Lady Raiders went on to add four more runs to their side of the scoreboard and never allowed Daviess County (24-13) to get back into it.
Daviess County loaded the bases in the top of the first inning as Gardner walked the first three batters she faced and later scored on an E4 to take a 1-0 lead, but the pitcher quickly locked in and struck out the next three batters to leave the bases loaded.
Warren East wasn’t able to score in the bottom half of the first, but Gardner made up for it by striking out the side to give her six straight strikeouts and bring the Lady Raiders back to bat.
“That first inning was a little nerve-racking,” Gardner said. “It’s really about figuring out where the umpire is calling and where she’s not calling, and really that’s what I had to do. Throughout the rest of the game, I knew where to pitch it.”
While she was already in her zone on the mound, Gardner stepped to the plate in the bottom of the second and sent a two-run home run over the centerfield wall to give East a 2-1 lead. Kelsey Sparks soon followed up with an RBI double to make it 3-1.
Gardner remained on fire and in the ensuing inning belted a three-run shot into the parking structure in left field to extend the Lady Raiders’ advantage to 6-1. Jedya Bays’ two-run double in the fourth later extended it to 8-1.
“Both hits — I knew they were out as soon as I hit it,” Gardner said. “Really throughout my at-bats I was just looking for the pitch that I wanted.”
Pinch hitting in the bottom of the sixth, Maude Forrester delivered a single into right center to plate another pair of runs, which made it 10-1 Warren East to seal it and punch the Lady Raiders’ ticket to Lexington.
“As a senior, it’s incredible,” said Gardner. “There’s really no words to describe it. Of course it’s a big step up — instead of playing at a park, we’re playing at a university. It’ll be a different atmosphere.”
DCHS — 1 0 0 0 0 0 0 — 1 2 1
WEHS — 0 3 3 2 0 2 X — 10 9 1
WP: Gardner. LP: Stanley.