Warren East caps 2018 softball season as state runner-up
OWENSBORO — The 2018 high school softball season is one Warren East won’t soon forget about.
District 14 champions. Region 4 champions. And now a runner-up finish on Kentucky’s biggest stage — the Owensboro Health/KHSAA State Softball Tournament — its best ending to a season in school history.
“What an unbelievable ride,” Warren East coach Phillip McKinney said. “These kids put a big stamp with their name on it on this program. These are my girls. It’s just special.”
- Warren East coach Phillip McKinney interview (Part 1)
- Warren East coach Phillip McKinney interview (Part 2)
- Warren East first baseman Jeyda Bays interview
- Warren East centerfielder Lucy Patterson interview
After walking off against Ryle in the opening round, handing East Carter its first loss of the season in the quarterfinals, scoring seven unanswered runs to defeat Central Hardin, using a nine-run fifth inning to defeat Butler and nearly upsetting Scott County — the state’s top ranked team — in the winner’s bracket final, the Lady Raiders recorded their best state finish this weekend at Jack C. Fisher Park.
Following Thursday’s win over Ryle and Friday’s pair of victories against East Carter and Central Hardin, Warren East ran into its toughest test yet on Saturday morning — that being Scott County.
“It feels amazing,” Warren East first baseman Jeyda Bays said of the Lady Raiders’ run. “We knew that we could make it this far but we never new until we did it. It took a lot of time, patience and effort in the offseason and in practices — long practices, hard practices — and it just carried throughout the season.”
The Lady Raiders battled until the very end against the Lady Cardinals but ended up dropping a hard fought, 2-1 decision to the eventual state champion.
The loss to Scott County moved WEHS into the consolation bracket, where the Lady Raiders turned a 3-0 deficit into a 9-5 win over Louisville Butler to advance to the state championship, where it again collided with Scott County.
“No doubt that we were tired, but we just had to keep on playing our game and not let the tiredness overcome us,” Bays said.
Extremely fatigued and exhausted from playing three games from 9 a.m. until 7 p.m. on Saturday, Warren East didn’t have enough left in the tank to get past Scott County, as the Lady Raiders suffered a 10-0 defeat in six innings to finish second in the state.
“We’ve had an amazing season,” Warren East centerfielder Lucy Patterson said. “It just feels so great that we went this far. (We learned) to always keep fighting — you never know what’s going to happen. Just come and go again.”
While Warren East loses four seniors — including starting catcher Ashton Akins — it returns every other piece from this year’s dominant roster.
Bays, second baseman Kya Elkin, pitcher Katie Gardner and utility player Macey Wilson will all be seniors, while shortstop Hailey Hymer, right fielder Olivia Price, left fielder Kelsey Sparks and third baseman Shelby Trent will just be juniors.
On top of those names, Patterson and Harley Stringfield — next year’s projected starting catcher — will only be entering their sophomore seasons, while pitcher Emma Markham will only be in her first year of high school.
“I expect the same run, but nothing’s guaranteed,” said Bays looking ahead to next year. “We’ll just have to put in work in the offseason to make our dreams come true.”
With the way this season went and with many significant pieces returning, it’s safe to say that Warren East already has high expectations for its 2019 campaign.
“That’s every year. That’s just how we’re gonna play,” said McKinney. “That’s how I coach and that’s how these girls are gonna be coached. We had middle school practice Monday … we can’t sit down — we’ve gotta get going again. I love coaching at Warren East.”