LAUREL COUNTY, Ky. —
OWENSBORO—The North Laurel softball season came to a painful end Friday with a 9-8 loss to Lone Oak. The Lady Jaguars had rallied out of a 5-3 hole in the top of the seventh, only to have the Purple Flash rebound in the bottom of the inning.
“I’m so proud of the girls. The way we fought and the way we came back. We just didn’t have any bullets left. We were out of ammo,” North Laurel coach Rogers Strong said.
The fireworks started in the bottom of the sixth with North Laurel clinging to a 3-2 lead. Lone Oak had three hits and took advantage of a couple of North Laurel errors to take a 5-3 lead.
“I told them, we’re not finished,” Strong said. “I said we’re not done. We’re going to go down swinging.”
The North Laurel rally started quietly in the top of the seventh. The plan was to rest Megan Baldwin after she had pitched a game Thursday night and three on Friday. Mikayla Vires did pitch a complete game, but Baldwin was called to pinch hit in the seventh. When she drew a one-out walk it didn’t seem like a big deal. Singles Sidney Herrell and Kailin Yantz loaded the bases. The Lone Oak third baseman made a diving stop on a grounder by Kristin Fields. When she stood up and looked to throw she had no chance of getting an out.
North Laurel still trailed 5-4 when Emily Sears lifted a soft liner to second base. The second baseman fully extended to snag the second out. Blake Johnson stepped to the plate with the Lady Jaguars down to their last out. Johnson quickly fell behind two strikes. On the third pitch, Johnson launched a triple over the right fielder to empty the bases. When Vanessa Smith reached on an error, North Laurel led 8-5.
The 1st Region champion still had some bullets left.
Sarah Krueter led off with a double, followed by a fly out from Payton Dillon. Amy Sorenson singled to score Krueter and make it an 8-6 game. Kionna Walden singled just over a leaping Nantz at second. Haven Gary popped out to third for the second out. The third out never came.
A single by Kelsee Henson made it 8-7. A long double by Jacqueline Roof drove home the tying and winnings runs.
“We talked about chasing the dream and getting the ring. We were close,” Strong said.
North Laurel put together an outstanding season with a sixth place finish in the state tournament and 38 wins. The end would be the hardest part.
“They are a great bunch of kids. They are heartbroken and I am heartbroken for them,” Strong said.
With Fields the only player that will be lost to graduation, Strong hopes the state tournament experience will make his team hungry next year.
“We’re going to try to build on this for next season,” Strong said. “I think we got a taste of it and we know what it feels like to get here and win some game.”
Strong has been with the North Laurel program six years and experienced other tough losses. He couldn’t recall a wound like this.
“This one probably hurts more than any just because of Kristin. I told her on senior day, I don’t know how many times I have been on a softball field that you’ve not been there,” Strong said.