Lady Raiders beat Central Hardin, advance in state softball tournament
OWENSBORO — One thing Warren East has done particularly well this postseason is not letting itself get rattled by early deficits.
The Lady Raiders trailed South Warren, 5-2, in the Region 4 championship on June 1 before going onto score nine unanswered runs and earn an 11-5 win for their first regional title since 2015.
Fast forward a week and Warren East has recorded yet another come-from-behind victory — this time turning a 2-0 deficit into a 7-2 win Friday evening over Region 5 champion Central Hardin in the winner’s bracket semifinals of the Owensboro Health/KHSAA State Softball Tournament at Jack C. Fisher Park.
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- Warren East first baseman Jeyda Bays interview
- Warren East pitcher Katie Gardner interview
- Warren East right fielder Olivia Price interview
- Warren East coach Phillip McKinney interview
“I think we just know how to fight,” Warren East first baseman Jeyda Bays said. “We know how to get on base and we know how to move our runners. We aren’t done until the last out is recorded.”
Bays played a significant role in bringing the Lady Raiders (32-4) back after falling into an early two-run hole.
With Warren East down 2-0 in the bottom of the fourth inning, Bays unloaded for a two-run home run over the left field fence to even the scoreboard at 2-all — and that swung all of the momentum over into the Lady Raiders’ dugout.
“These kids are just unbelievable,” Warren East coach Phillip McKinney said. “They just play softball. You try to put them in situations at practice to fail so that when you have situations like this in the postseason they just find a way to play softball.
“They find a way to get it done — somehow, some way — and that’s what they did again.”
After Central Hardin (33-10) built its 2-0 lead and Bays tied it with her blast, the Lady Raiders went onto score five more runs and put the Lady Bruins away for good.
By knocking off CHHS, Warren East now advances to the winner’s bracket final and will meet Scott County — the top ranked team in Kentucky in the final coaches poll — at 9 a.m. Saturday.
Should the Lady Raiders beat the Lady Cardinals, they’ll advance to Saturday’s 1 p.m. state championship game.
“Since the beginning of the season it’s been our goal to get to state,” Warren East pitcher Katie Gardner said. “In 2015, we got fifth, so we’re trying to go farther (this year) and get first.”
Gardner — who went the distance in both of the Lady Raiders’ contests on Friday — threw eight strikeouts while allowing two runs with seven hits to earn her second win of the day.
On the opposite side of the ball, Warren East finished with nine hits, as Kelsey Sparks and Lucy Patterson both finished 2-for-3 with two RBI each.
“We’re in the final three — and so far that’s the best finish there’s ever been at Warren East,” McKinney said.
After Central Hardin scored runs in the second and third innings, respectively, Warren East came firing back.
Trailing 2-0, the Lady Raiders finally got their bats going and unloaded for two runs on three hits in the bottom of the fourth. With Sparks on after reaching on a single, Bays came to the plate and sent a solo shot over the left field fence to empty the bases and tie it.
“All I was thinking was to just help out my team,” Bays said of her hit. “I was thinking, ‘Just help our team … just help our team.'”
Following Bays’ much-needed help, East really broke loose in the ensuing frame and added five more runs to its side of the board.
Price led off the inning with a solo home run directly over the fence in centerfield to make it 3-2 before back-to-back singles by Hailey Hymer and Sparks plated another pair.
An RBI single from Patterson in the very next at-bat suddenly had the Lady Raiders leading 7-2.
“I knew she had to come back and come at me because she was down in the count, so I knew I had to look something up,” Price said. “I knew it was middle in, so I knew to take it that way. It felt pretty good.”
Thanks to the resiliency from Warren East, it is now looking forward to Saturday’s challenge.
“OK. OK. What do you want me to say?,” McKinney asked when told he and his team would be facing Scott County. “They’re good. I think you’re supposed to be pretty good when you’re in the final three. We’re gonna play softball.”
CHHS – 0 1 1 0 0 0 0 – 2 7 1
WEHS – 0 0 0 2 5 0 x – 7 9 4
WP: Gardner. LP: Goedde.