LAUREL COUNTY, Ky. —
OWENSBORO—Ryle found the way to stop the 21-game North Laurel winning streak. The Lady Raiders posted their second straight shutout in the Rawlings KHSAA Softball State Tournament to advance to the quarterfinals of the winner’s brackets. North Laurel’s 1-0 loss in eight innings was its first since April 21 and the first time they have been shut out this season.
“I’m disappointed because it was a winnable game. You have to give them a lot of credit,” North Laurel coach Rogers Strong said.
North Laurel out hit Ryle, 5-4, and always seemed to be on the verge of breaking the deadlock. They had runners on base in all but two innings.
“Our short game had been real good to us all year. We didn’t execute real well in some crucial situations,” Strong said.
With a 20-13 record, Ryle didn’t come into the tournament with a big reputation. In mid May they were only 13-13, but have not lost since. They swept through the 9th Region by allowing only one run per game. They became even stingier in the state tournament, shutting out favored Christian County, 1-0, in the first round and now North Laurel by the same score.
“(Ali Crupper’s) delivery is deceptive. She’s a little faster than advertised,” Strong said. “She pitched a whale of a game. “
Still North Laurel will look back at the chances it had to score before this game went into extra innings. Kristin Fields and Megan Baldwin both singled in the first inning and were stranded. Vanessa Smith led off the second inning with a walk. There was a walk to Fields in the third and a single by Farris Strong in the fourth. Many times a well-hit ball was straight at the defense or Ryle would just make a play.
“We had a little bit of snake bit,” Strong said. “It’s just one of those things. Sometimes things go right and sometimes things go wrong.”
One opportunity Strong remembers well came in the sixth inning. Fields led off with a double and moved to third on a Baldwin bunt. Emily Sears grounded out to shortstop to bring Vanessa Smith to the plate. Strong said in hindsight he wished he did not have Smith bunt.
“I wanted to make sure we put the ball in play when Vanessa was up with a runner at third. It was unorthodox, but I wanted to make sure the ball was in play and make them handle it,” Strong said. “I wanted to put pressure on the defense. With the runner moving, it might be a distraction.”
The bunt was fielded by the pitcher and Smith thrown out to end the inning.
There would be another missed chance in the seventh. Blake Johnson singled with one out and Sidney Herrell with two outs. Again a hard hit ball by Yantz was fielded. Ryle had only one runner beyond first base to that point.
That would change in the bottom of the eighth. Hannah Brumbach led off with a walk. A bunt moved her to second. It looked like North might escape when McKell Oliverio flied out to centerfield. Baldwin got ahead of Haylee Smith 0-2, but Smith worked the count full. She then lifted a soft liner to centerfield for a single. Smith fielded the ball cleanly and made a good throw, but with the runner in motion Brumbach scored anyway.
“They are on a roll. Their record is not great, but they are playing well at the right time,” Strong said. “They are a veteran team too. They have been here.”
It was a tough loss for a North Laurel team that had not felt this in almost seven weeks.
“They’re a great group of kids. They are heartbroken right now, but as far as character I wouldn’t trade my team for anyone,” Strong said. “I wouldn’t trade them for the Olympic team.”