LAUREL COUNTY, Ky. —
WILLIAMSBURG—The 13th Region championship featured a showdown between rivals North and South Laurel, who fought for trophies and bragging rights at Whitley County High School. The game was mostly decided by defense, as well as key pitching from North’s Mikayla Vires and South’s Hagan Burns, with South prevailing, 4-1.
“It helped us early in the year when North beat us,” said James Burns, head coach of South Laurel’s softball team. North Laurel had bested the Lady Cards 4-2 earlier in the season, prompting Burns and his crew to revaluate and use different strategies. “It seems to be really working,” said Burns.
The first inning of the game was by far the longest. In fact, it was the only inning that featured more than four bats from either team. A single from Brittany Vandeventer started the game from the Lady Cards, and a double from Hagan Burns shortly after would put the first run of the game on the board.
Nellesha Murray would nail a single that allowed substitute runner Kenzie Jervis to score, and Makenzie Powenski would capitalize off a bunt from Leslie Dixon to put the Lady Cards up 3-0 before North Laurel took the field in the bottom of the first.
A triple from McKenzie Mills would get things going for the Lady Jags, with Mills scoring after a double from Kailin Yantz. This would be the only run North Laurel would score in the game. Two straight strikeouts pitched by Burns would close out the first inning with South Laurel ahead 3-1.
Haley Shelby would drill a single in attempt to get momentum going again for the Lady Cards, and would later score South Laurel’s final run in of the game after capitalizing off a hit from Vandeventer.
North Laurel could not mount any offense, and was sent back to the bench after three straight outs.
A single from Murray would be the only offensive highlight of the third ending, with the game turning into a grueling defensive battle and face off of Burns and Vires at the pitcher’s mound.
Kaylee Norvell scored a single for the Lady Cards at the top of the fourth, while Vires was able to score a strikeout for the Lady Jags. Three subsequent outs for each team would quickly end the fourth inning.
Burns would drill another single for South Laurel, and Hunter Deaton would do the same for North Laurel. Aside from that, the fifth inning was more strikeouts and caught pop-ups.
Things looked to be picking up at the start of the sixth inning, as South Laurel opened up with a successful bunt from Dixon. A sacrifice bunt from Destiny Salva would allow Dixon to reach second base. Two more successive outs would prevent any further offense from the Lady Cards however.
The sixth inning would feature more stringent defense, with each team suffering three outs before mounting any significant offense.
At the top of the seventh, the Lady Jags had their final opportunity to make a comeback. Their hopes were dashed by defensive coordination from South Laurel’s fielders and another strikeout from Burns. The final score of the game would be 4-1 with the Lady Cards of South Laurel claiming the 13th Region championship.
“They’re a very disciplined team,” said Burns in praise of his opponents from across town. “They’re so equal.”
North Laurel’s head softball coach Kyle Mink was able to show grace towards his opponents, even in defeat.
“You got two really good pitchers going at it,” said Mink in regard to the pitching battle between Burns and Vires. “It just comes down to a few mistakes.”
While willing to reciprocate the respect, Mink echoed the words of Burns, saying the Lady Jags would use this defeat as motivation for the teams’ next meeting.
“It’s going to leave us a little sour taste in our mouth,” said Mink. “We’re going to get after it.”
South Laurel now advances to the Worth/KHSAA state fastpitch softball tournament in Owensboro for the second straight year. The Lady Cardinals will face George Rogers Clark Thursday at 7 p.m. CST.