Lady Spartans edge East Carter in barnburner, 1-0
In what has perhaps been the best game of the KHSAA State Softball Tournament so far, South Warren pulled another last-second win out of their hat, edging East Carter in a 1-0 barnburner in eight innings.
In what was a dynamic pitcher’s duel all morning long, the Lady Spartans got the winning run from their under-the-radar nine-hole hitter, as Katie Conley stole home to end a game that had hearts in both dugouts racing.
“It felt good because I knew that the team was depending on that one run and we came out and got it,” said Conley. “It’s crazy to come out with a win like this. They’re a very good team and we just came out and played our hearts out.”
With the score knotted at 0-0 in extra innings, South Warren (34-3) again found themselves testing the nerves of head coach Chris Riggs.
“We’ve played a lot of games this way,” said Riggs. “I told (the team) that in the fifth or sixth inning. They have confidence in themselves and trust the process.”
Before the game brought the anticipation of a wild pitching duel between two Division 1 pitchers, South Warren’s Shelby Nunn (Western Kentucky University) and East Carter’s Montana Fouts (University of Alabama), and it definitely lived up to the hype.
On the morning, the two pitchers combined for 23 strikouts, 15 from Fouts and eight from Nunn.
Ultimately, Nunn came out with the win.
“(Shelby’s) a senior playing in the state tournament,” said Riggs. “If I would have taken her out of that game, she wouldn’t have been happy with me. She’s tough and that’s what she does.”
Faults, however, showed her worth as she held a South Warren team that has averaged 9.2 hits per game this season to only one hit through five shutout innings.
East Carter (34-4) brought up the first real scoring threat in the top of the third inning, getting runners to first and second before Nunn picked up a strikeout to end the threat.
The Lady Raiders got the go-ahead run on third base in the top of the fifth inning but again left her stranded.
Looking to break the 0-0 tie, East Carter loaded the bases with one out in the top of the sixth inning, but Nunn again was able to pitch her way out of it.
South Warren put runners on first and second with a chance to win the game in the bottom of the seventh inning, but Fauts fanned her 13th batter of the game to end the scoring threat.
After Nunn’s 143rd pitch resulted in a strikeout to end the top of the eighth inning, Conley hit a leadoff single and worked her way to third base on a steal and a sacrifice bunt.
And then she got her chance.
“(Coach) Riggs told me that I could delay steal, so I got out as far as I could,” said Conley. “I saw them not paying attention and just went for it.
The attempted throw to home went over the catcher’s head to give the Lady Spartans a 1-0 victory on the walk-off steal.
“Both teams had some situations where a run would end it,” said Riggs. “Both teams held their ground and Katie made a great play to get it done.”
South Warren recorded five hits on the morning, including two from Conley. The Lady Raiders blistered eight hits, including two apiece from Eden Mayo, Madison Sparks, and Graycee Castle.
With the win, No. 4 South Warren advances to play No. 1 Louisville Male in Friday’s quarterfinal matchup at 3:00 p.m. The winner will advance to the semi-finals while the loser falls to the consolation bracket to play at 7 p.m. on Friday evening.
When asked how to prepare for the matchup against the top-ranked Lady Bulldogs, Riggs put it simple: “We just have to keep going one game at a time and see what happens.”