By Mitch Howard
LAUREL COUNTY, Ky. —
Clay County managed just three hits against a pair of South London pitchers, but made the most of them. Behind a strong pitching performance from Brianda Owens, Clay County advanced in the 11-12 Year Old All Stars District Tournament with a 2-1 win Thursday.
“I thought it would be a defensive struggle. I thought the pitching would be great,” Clay County coach Scotty Smith said.
Owens allowed South London only two hits and just one unearned run in the first inning. Clay County tied the score in the second inning and took the lead in the fourth.
“I thought the hitting would struggle. I really think they have great pitching and of course we’ve got a great pitcher in Brianda Owens. She pitched a heck of a game tonight,” Smith said.
South London got off to a hot start beginning with Makenzie Powenski reaching on an error to lead off the bottom of the first inning. Tori Byrd bunted for a single and Leslie Dixon reached on a fielder’s choice to load the bases with no outs. The run scored on a fly ball by Kenzie Jervis, but it would be the only run in what could have been a big inning.
Clay County rallied when Maddie Frazier and Ally Hicks walked with two outs in the second inning. Bailey Hensley came through with the first Clay County hit to score Frazier.
“We struggled a little bit hitting the ball, but overall I’m satisfied,” Smith said.
Clay County’s second hit came in the fourth inning. Again it was a walk that got the threat started. Lauren Smith walked and moved up on a bunt single by Carley Hoskins. Smith scored what would be the winning run on a wild pitch.
South London couldn’t put any threat together against Owens. Their only hit after Clay County took the lead was a single by Kaitlyn Riley to lead off the fifth.
Many of the South London and Clay County players are teammates on travel ball teams.
“It’s taught these girls a whole lot and given them a lot of confidence when they go around to different states and play different talent to make these girls realize they are as good as anybody they play,” Smith said.
Clay County is in a familiar situation with Thursday’s 2-1 win. They beat South London by the same score in the district tournament as 9-year olds. If Clay County beats Corbin in the finals of the loser’s bracket, they would have to beat North Laurel twice to advance to the state. That is what they did as 9-year olds to move on to the state tournament.