By Mitch Howard
LAUREL COUNTY, Ky. —
OWENSBORO—South Laurel’s high expectations for the Rawlings/ KHSAA State Softball Tournament ended quickly with a 4-2 loss to Montgomery County. The Lady Cardinals two games in the state tournament were marked by uncommon errors and too many runners stranded.
“I was hoping for three wins, two wins and when that happens you never know what can happen if you get hot. The best teams don’t always win, the hot team does,” South Laurel coach James Burns said. “We were hoping to come up here and get hot, but it was more like an ice blanket.”
While a heavy underdog in their first game, the Lady Cardinals were probably favored over Montgomery County (22-13). South Laurel took the early lead, just as it had on Greenwood. Then they left six runners stranded the first three innings as the Lady Indians pulled ahead.
“We’ve had that problem all year long. I’m just an old country boy and I don’t know how you fix it. I will study on it all winter though,” Burns said.
Cassandra Johnson reached on an error to lead off the bottom of the second inning. A walk to Brittany Vandeventer and fielder’s choice for Amber Hyde loaded the bases. A long at bat by Bailey Miller led to a walk that forced in the first run. Even with the lead, there was the issue of three runners stranded. It would be a recurring theme.
“We left too many base runners. Honestly we didn’t hit all weekend,” Burns said.
An error and three straight singles allowed Montgomery County to tie the score in the second inning. They would also lead the bases loaded. But the breaks would come their way first.
“You come up here and you have to have a few breaks go your way and you have to play with a little more emotion. We didn’t play with much emotion,” Burns said.
The Lady Cardinals first two runners reached in the second inning. A perfect throw from left field nailed Nell Murray tagging from third and kept the score tied. Amber Hyde led off the third inning with a high home run to left field, her 13th of the season. South Laurel led 2-1, but it would not score again.
“Most of the time they were just too tight, trying too hard. When you do that you over swing and ground it into the ground or pop up in the infield,’ Burns said.
The breaks started going the Montgomery County way in the fifth inning. Four hits in the inning included a soft liner that just eluded the leaping attempt of second baseman Madyson Morris. The hit that drove in two runs was a blooper by Hunter Scott that found open outfield.
South Laurel managed just one hit the final three innings. Hyde singled to lead off the fifth, but would be erased on a double play. With two outs in the bottom of the sixth inning, play was delayed four hours by rain. When play resumed Montgomery County added an insurance run.
“Heartbreaking for the weekend. A great season, but a heartbreaking end to the year,” Burns said.
“We didn’t look like the same team.”
While Burns saw his team as tentative in their two state tournament games it didn’t take away from the season’s first 34 games.
“They’re a great bunch of kids. We had a great year and we did something our school’s not done in six years. You’ve got to be happy with the season,” Burns said.
Greenwood doesn’t see the best of South
OWENSBORO—When you draw the state’s No. 1 team and the winner of 39 straight games, you know you have to play your best. South Laurel played even with Greenwood for three innings before mistakes, in the field and on the bases, doomed them to a 7-1 loss.
“I thought we would play better honestly,” South Laurel coach James Burns said. “We didn’t play fundamentally. We made too many mistakes. But I’m proud of them. The effort was there."
South Laurel made six errors to set up most of the Greenwood scoring. They also had two runners thrown out leading off first base and struggled all night against Greenwood pitcher Elizabeth Moss. The Lady Cardinals managed just four hits. Most puzzling to the South Laurel hitters was a change up that looked like it floated to the plate.
“We work change ups all the time. We were just way out in front today. We weren’t staying back on it and honestly I don’t know if we got a good hit on it all day,” Burns said. “She’s a good pitcher. You have to give her credit.”
South Laurel had a chance to hurt the Lady Gators early. After Hagan Burns retired Greenwood in order, the Lady Cardinals struck first. A pair of walks and a dropped pop up allowed Cassandra Johnson to score the game’s first run. It was just the 19th run the Lady Gators had allowed all season. It would be the last they allowed South Laurel.
“There is a reason they are 40-0. They are a good team,” Burns said.
Greenwood evened the score in the top of the second. The rally started with a walk to Angela Adkins. She would score when two errors were made on one ground ball.
“Of the runs they got how many were earned?” Burns said. “We would make one error and then make another one on the same play.”
The score remained tied until the fourth inning, which was also the first inning Greenwood managed a hit off Burns. Alexis Dean served a soft pop up that found a gap next to the right field line. She scored on a single by Brittany Graham. Even when a bunt was misplayed, the Lady Cardinals had a chance to escape further damage. They did not capitalize with two runners in a rundown and gave up another run.
“We just made too many mistakes, just little mistakes. Like we didn’t know what we were doing,” Burns said.
Moss was in a rhythm now with eight of the next nine batters striking out. Greenwood padded the lead with three runs in the fifth inning. Megan Smith took the mound in relief in the sixth inning. She worked out of inherited trouble in the sixth. Smith allowed a run in the seventh with a walk, an error in the outfield, and a wild pitch.
“I think we were a little in awe of being here. We were just a little shell-shocked” Burns said. “They’ll come back. They are resilient. We’ll win some ball games tomorrow.”
The Lady Cardinals had three hits in the last three innings. Two of those runners were picked off at first base.
“We made mistakes on the base paths even. We had two thrown out on the base paths and almost a third getting too far off the base,” Burns said.