State softball tournament: Preview of first-round matchups
OWENSBORO—State tournament softball has finally arrived as the 2018 Owensboro Health/KHSAA Fast Pitch Softball State Tournament begins on Thursday evening at Jack C. Fisher Park in Owensboro.
Region Four champion Warren East is slated to play Region Nine champion Ryle at 5 p.m. on the green field on Thursday night, and here’s a quick preview of all the first-round matchups in this year’s state tournament.
Region 16 champion East Carter (37-0) vs. Region Six champion Butler (26-9)
East Carter senior Montana Fouts has played varsity for the Lady Raiders since she was in sixth grade, and she is the primary reason why East Carter is yet to lose to a Kentucky school this season.
The University of Alabama signee is the state’s best pitcher with an unrealistic 0.07 ERA, and she has struck out 417 of the 664 batters that she has faced this season. Fouts is also able to get the job done at the plate, ranking ninth in batting average (.604), ninth in home runs (12), and third in runs batted in (66).
But Fouts and the Lady Raiders cannot underestimate Butler in their first-round matchup. The Bearettes suffered a narrow 6-5 defeat to the Lady Raiders in East Carter’s own Tri-State Showcase on April 14.
Region Four champion Warren East (29-4) vs. Region Nine champion Ryle (23-6)
After coming up just short against 14thDistrict rival South Warren in last year’s Region Four title game, Warren East erased a 5-2 deficit against the Spartans on the way to an 11-5 victory in this year’s region title game to punch their ticket to Owensboro for the first time since 2015.
The Lady Raiders own an impressive 29-4 record with the four losses being to stout competition: dropping both regular-season games against South Warren and losing a pair of one-run games to undefeated East Carter and Christian County, who is yet to lose to a Kentucky school this season.
Ryle has also had a season to note as the Lady Raiders from Region Nine were 16-2 against regional competition this year, and Ryle outscored its three regional tournament opponents by a combined score of 21-6 to capture the region crown for the first time since 2012.
Region 15 champion Pikeville (31-9) vs. Region 13 champion Clay County (29-1)
This first-round matchup will feature two mountain schools that have already faced off once this season, as Clay County handed the Lady Panthers an 8-1 loss in the 5thAnnual Wizard of Ozz Classic at Letcher County Central on April 21.
The Lady Tigers have rolled through their schedule this season by only losing one game—a 5-4 setback at Corbin on May 8. Clay County would get revenge, defeating the Lady Redhounds 8-6 in the Region 13 Tournament semifinals.
Meanwhile Pikeville has caught fire since that loss to Clay County, ripping off 19 victories in their last 20 games.
Region Five champion Central Hardin (31-9) vs. Region Seven champion Ballard (27-4)
Central Hardin made no doubt that it was the best time in Region Five this season by going 18-0 in regional competition and outscoring their three region tournament opponents by a combined score of 22-3.
The Lady Bruins will have their work cut out for them when they face the Lady Bruins from up I-65 in Region Seven. Ballard has already beat Central Hardin 9-0 this season, and the Lady Bruins also have one of the state’s best pitchers in Alivia Sinnott—who is ranked 20thin the state in ERA with 1.80.
Region 12 champion Boyle County (26-10) vs. Region 14 champion Estill County (20-12)
These two teams have already met once this season as Boyle County defeated Estill County 11-0 back on May 8.
The Lady Rebels enter Owensboro with momentum as winners of nine straight and 13 of their last 14, and Boyle County handed East Jessamine its first loss to a Region 12 opponent this season to capture the region crown.
Estill County has had its ups and downs this season—the most notable “down” being a five-game skid in early May—but the Lady Engineers have powered their way into the state tournament bracket with dominating performances in both the district and regional tournaments.
Region 11 champion Scott County (33-2) vs. Region Three champion Apollo (21-9)
Scott County firmly established that they were the best of the best in the Lexington area.
The Lady Cardinals went undefeated against regional opponents this season, outscoring its three opponents in the regional tournament by a combined score of 46-1. Scott County only has one loss to a Kentucky school this season, which was a 1-0 loss at Ballard.
The Lady Cardinals are led by senior Kennedy Sullivan, who is eighth in the state in home runs with 13 and 11thin runs batted in with 50 on the year.
But Scott County will be facing a tough opponent in Apollo, who has the pleasure of competing for a state title in its hometown. The E-gals will be looking to avenge a 7-0 loss to Scott County earlier in the year.
Region Two champion Christian County (35-3) vs. Region One champion Marshall County (28-8)
Christian County has been a dominating force in western Kentucky this season.
The Lady Colonels are yet to lose to a Kentucky school this season, and Christian County has three players—Emmy Blane, Tyler Shemwell and Lexie O’Daniel—ranked in the top 20 in the state for both home runs and RBIs.
Marshall County will look to end Christian County’s remarkable season after the Lady Marshals clinced the Region One title with a 5-4 victory over upstart Ballard Memorial. The Lady Bombers had pulled off what may be the most shocking upset in the history of Kentucky high school softball the game before, defeating McCracken County 3-2 to hand the Lady Mustangs their first loss to a Region One opponent since Heath, Lone Oak and Reidland consolidated to form the high school in 2014.
Region 10 champion Bourbon County (28-10) vs. Region Eight champion Oldham County (36-4)
Both Bourbon County and Oldham County are nicknamed the Lady Colonels, signifying the third of the eight first-round matchups to feature two teams with the same nickname.
Bourbon County is led by Kaylyn Barnett and Katie Fister, who have slugged a total of 10 home runs while driving in 44 and 49 runs, respectively, this season.
Oldham County also has power in their bats behind the duo of Elana Ornelas and Taylor Jackson. Orenalas leads the state in runs scored with 64, is fifth in runs batted in with 60, and she is 25thin home runs with nine on the season. Jackson is sixth in the state in RBS with 56 on the year.