Lady Raiders set for state tournament play
Warren East is headed to Lexington with one goal in mind – winning a state softball title.
The Lady Raiders, who have assembled yet another outstanding season, hope to cap their impressive 2019 campaign by capturing the KHSAA Fast Pitch Softball State Tournament championship this weekend at the University of Kentucky’s John Cropp Stadium.
As the state tournament format was changed this year, East will have to win just three games to claim the crown – and its quest begins with a quarterfinal matchup against Ashland Blazer at Noon (CT) Friday.
“If you’re fortunate enough to get through Friday, man you’re down to the final four – without playing seven, eight games in a day or two,” Warren East coach Philip McKinney said Wednesday at Warren East High School. “We’re ready.”
The Lady Raiders – who enter the tournament with a 34-2 overall record and fresh off a second consecutive Region 4 championship – held a community pep rally Wednesday at their own Phil Burkeen Field to allow fans to come out and help give the team a fueled sendoff to Lexington.
With the stands nearly full and Blue and Gold streaming through the crowd, each player was introduced, Athletic Director Jonathan Vincent recapped the program’s long list of season accomplishments, several players and coach McKinney spoke, and the team held an open practice for those in attendance to take in.
“It feels good,” Warren East junior shortstop Hailey Hymer said Wednesday of the community’s support. “Our community’s really strong. It feels good for everyone just to be out here to watch a practice. It’s really cool.”
Making its second straight appearance in the state tournament and third since 2015, Warren East is fully prepared for the big stage – especially after what it was able to do this time last year.
After playing six games in three days in the 2018 tournament at Jack C. Fisher Park in Owensboro, the Lady Raiders made a run to the championship game and finished as the state runner-up after falling short to Scott County.
They’re hoping to do more this time around – and in fewer games.
“I feel like we’re really confident going in this year,” Hymer said. “We know we’re kind of held to a high standard just cause of our turnout last year and our success this year. I’m just really excited to go into this tournament.”
Ashland Blazer – the Region 16 champion – enters Friday’s matchup with East at 25-11 overall.
The Kittens and Lady Raiders last met in the 2015 state tournament, with Warren East falling 2-1. Ashland Blazer was led that season by Kentucky Miss Softball winner Megan Hensley.
Should the Lady Raiders win Friday, they’ll advance to the semifinal round for a meeting with the Central Hardin/Pendleton County winner at 2 p.m. (CT) Saturday.
“We know what we did last year – and we know we’ve gotta come back stronger,” Warren East junior outfielder Olivia Price said. “We have everybody together. We’ve just gotta keep each other up and keep each other positive.”