By Mitch Howard
LAUREL COUNTY, Ky. —
If you look at the KHSAA website, you wouldn’t find a Somerset win over North Laurel in fast pitch softball. Not until Thursday night.
The Lady Briar Jumpers used a seventh inning rally to upset North Laurel, 5-2. It’s not what the Lady Jaguars needed with two games left in the regular season.
“We’ve just got things we need to work out and we’ve got a short time to work them out. We’ve got a lot of issues to handle if we want to be the kind of team to finish strong in the post season,” North Laurel assistant coach Rogers Strong said. “We’ve got to do those things and take care of business or it will be a short trip.”
There was really very little to watch in the first 6 1⁄2 innings. Somerset loaded the bases in the first inning on two walks and a hit batter, but they didn’t produce a run. Megan Baldwin retired 17 of the next 19 batters including nine in a row to keep them in check. The Lady Briar Jumpers had just two hits with seven strikeouts in the first six innings.
North Laurel didn’t fare much better. The Lady Jaguars had just two hits when they entered the sixth inning. The bottom of the sixth began with Kailin Yantz reaching on an error with a hard shot to second base. Yantz was almost doubled off first when Vanessa Smith popped out to shortstop on a flashy play by the Somerset shortstop Amanda Haynes. Baldwin grounded to second base for the second out. When Blake Johnson came through with an RBI single it looked like the one run might be enough for the win even though Somerset pitcher freshman Jordan Lafavers had held them in check.
“She just kept it off the plate and we didn’t do what we’ve been taught to do. Actually the last couple of innings we started hitting it to the right side and doing the things you do when somebody is pitching you away,” Strong said.
The seventh inning couldn’t have started much worse for the Lady Jaguars. Baldwin walked three of the first four batters. Somerset tied the game on a grounder to Yantz. She tried to throw out the runner at home, but the coaches would have preferred she get the sure out at first. Another judgment play went against North Laurel when leftfielder McKenzie Mills caught a deep foul ball that allowed the go-ahead run to tag from third.
“I can’t criticize them. Yantz has played lights out all year and she gives 100 percent,” Strong said. “The play in left was a difficult decision to make. She’s played centerfield and right. In the heat of the game it’s kind of a hard decision not to go get it,” Strong said. “They have played a lot, but you have to remember they are freshmen.”
What happened next really hurt. Haynes capped off the inning with a three-run homer to left centerfield.
North Laurel tried to rally in the bottom of the seventh inning. Farris Strong legged out an infield single with one out. Strong scored on a hard, two-out single by Mills. Yantz doubled and Smith walked to load the bases. The rally ended with Baldwin popping out to second base.
“We kind of got started, but it was a little too late,” Strong said.
North Laurel were scheduled to play a doubleheader Friday night against Shelby County and Franklin County. That didn’t leave much time to work out any kinks before the post season. The 49th District Tournament begins tonight at North Laurel with the Lady Jaguars facing the winner between Clay County and Jackson County. North Laurel has won seven straight district titles and six straight region titles.