Warren East set for state softball tournament
After just missing out on a trip to the state softball tournament last season, Warren East is making its return to Owensboro in 2018.
The Lady Raiders — champions of both District 14 and Region 4 — will meet Region 9 champion Ryle at 5 p.m. Thursday in the opening round of the Owensboro Health/KHSAA State Softball Tournament at Jack C. Fisher Park in Owensboro.
Warren East, which sports an overall record of 29-4, last participated in the state tournament in 2015. The Lady Raiders played four games that week in Owensboro and finished 2-2, defeating Montgomery County and Johnson Central and falling to Ashland Blazer and Anderson County.
This year’s Lady Raider squad includes a handful of players that were a part of the 2015 team. Katie Gardner, Cailyn Howard and Kelsey Sparks were all role players, while Kya Elkin and Hailey Hymer — this season’s leadoff batter — came off the bench to gain experience by pinch running.
The Lady Raiders will have their hands full in the 2018 edition of the tournament, as they’re a part of the top bracket that contains five of the top 18 teams in Kentucky, according to the final coaches poll of the season.
East is ranked No. 6 in the poll, as many of its 33 games came against top competition. The Lady Raiders played Christian County — the state’s fourth ranked team — on May 17 and turned around the very next day and met undefeated and No. 2 ranked East Carter.
There’s a good chance Warren East and East Carter meet for the second time this season, should the Lady Raiders beat Ryle and East Carter win against Region 6 champion Butler on Thursday. East Carter features three-time Gatorade Kentucky Player of the Year and University of Alabama commit in pitcher Montana Fouts.
In the two sides’ meeting in the final week of regular-season, East Carter took a 2-1 win.
Ryle (23-6) captured both the District 33 and Region 9 championships this season to earn its first trip to the state tournament since 2012. The Lady Raiders were not ranked in the final coaches poll but received votes and enter Thursday’s contest having won 12 straight games.
Ryle is led by shortstop — and University of Kentucky commit — Maclai Branson, who in 2018 is batting .593 and has hit 16 home runs.