(by Don Meador, The Citizen-Times June 2009)
Three wins at the KHSAA state softball tournament enabled the Allen County-Scottsville Patriot fast pitch squad to bring home a fourth place trophy from among the 16 teams taking part in the two-day double elimination tournament last Friday and Saturday at Jack Fisher Park in Owensboro.
“I couldn’t be more proud,” ACS coach Rick Roberts said. “They won 37 games with mostly sophomores and freshmen on the field. They made a great run at it.”
ACS’s fourth place finish continues the tradition of strong performances in the state softball tournament. In all four appearances in the event (2000,2004, 2005, and 2009), the Patriots have survived early round play on Friday and reached the final day. In 2000, ACS came out of the losers bracket—defeating three schools with Division One pitchers---to finish third. In 2004, the Patriots dropped a game on Friday but bounced back to reach Saturday morning’s play. In 2005, ACS overcame a loss on Friday to win a game Saturday morning before being eliminated in the semi-finals of the consolation bracket.
This year---for the first time---ACS won both Friday games. In the opener, the Patriots overcame a four run deficit with a walk off 5-4 win over Garrard County. Next, ACS dispatched Franklin County 8-2 to move into semi-finals of the winners’ bracket, three wins away from the state championship. At 9:00 Saturday morning, ACS dropped a 5-0 decision to Mercy, leaving ACS to turn around and play Garrard County again in the consolation bracket. The Ppatriots pounded the Lady Lions 11-3.
The win moved the Patriots into a 12:45 p.m. game with North Hardin. In a close game the entire way, the Lady Trojans edged ACS 4-3 with a walk-off win in the bottom of the eighth inning.
“They could have laid down after the Mercy game and just been happy with going to state, but they fought back,” Roberts said. “I thought they played a really good games against Garrard County and North Hardin.”
ACS’s diamond success began Friday morning with a rougher-than-expected battle with Garrard County. In late April, ACS defeated Garrard 7-1. Things were much closer Friday, leaving Patriot fans on pins-and-needles for much of the game.
The drama began with two outs in the top of the first and continued to the second. With a runner on first as the result of a Patriot error, Lady Lion Brittany Pingleton lifted a Catie Yates fast ball beyond the center field fence. In the next inning, Garrard added two runs. After a one out triple by Sydney Pozzutto, Mallory McMaine reached on a bunt single. The pair scored after a two-out single by Hagan Goldey.
Less than 30 minutes into state tournament play and ACS trailed 4-0, prompting fans to recall the regional semi-final game when Greenwood sprinted to an early four run lead.
“It was like Greenwood all over again,” Roberts noted. “It was like deja vu all over again. It was wild.”
By the third inning, ACS’s starter Catie Yates had been replaced by freshman Kelsi Pardue. The youngster was asked to shut the Lady Lion bats down while the Patriot offense was challenged.
“Don’t give up on this game,” Roberts encouraged his players going to the top of the fourth. “Act like you want to play in the state tournament.”
In the home half of the inning, Raissa Stovall and Macey Cornwell singled. Amanda Wood’s reached on a Garrard error---a play allowing Stovall to score. Taylor’s Borders’s sacrifice to the right side of the infield allowed Cornwell to score. Wood scored the third run on a pass ball, pulling ACS within a run.
The Patriots trailed until their final at bat in the seventh. With one out, Allison Murley reached on a hit. Shelby Harper came into run for Murley, moved to second on a passed ball and scored the tying run when Caley Melton blasted a single to right. Emma Napier added another single with Stovall’s bunt single loading the bases. In her turn at the plate, Cornwell grounded to second. By the time Lady Lion second baseman Jessica Morris fielded the ball, Melton had crossed the plate to give ACS the win.
ACS moved on in the winners bracket despite a slow start that had Roberts offering a suggestion.
“I think what we ought to play an inning out there in the outfield before we start, because we’re having a lot of problems at the start of the game,” Roberts quipped. “To their credit, they don’t ever get down for the whole game. I was really proud of them.”
A slow start was forthcoming in the Patriots next matchup as Franklin County plated two runs in the bottom of the first inning. After a leadoff double by Dana Jarboe, an ACS error allowed Jarboe to score and Lady Flyer Kelley Hogan to reach second. Madelyn Brown singled to score Hogan and stake Franklin County to the lead.
The fourth inning was again the ACS get-going inning. After Stovall reached on an error, Cornwell singled. The pair moved to second and third on Wood’s sacrifice fly with the tandem scoring after Taylor Borders blasted a single to right. Two batters later, Emily Meador’s double allowed Harper (running for Borders) to score the go ahead run.
ACS plated two more in the fifth. Melton’s single was followed by a two run home run by Napier----her fifth on the season.
For insurance, ACS added three runs in the top half of the seventh. After Stovall scored the sixth run of the game, Cornwell and Harper crossed the plate on a two out single by Meador.
The offensive output was more than enough thanks in part to the pitching of Pardue. After giving up the first inning runs, Pardue struck out seven and allowed only one hit the rest of the way.
“KP (Kelsi Pardue) has been terrific at the end of the season,” Robert said. “I have to give Taylor (Borders), our catcher, a lot of credit for that. She’s really working well with our pitchers.”
Borders pointed out that Pardue was on her game both in the win over Franklin County and in relief against Garrard County.
“Kelsi was focused,” Borders pointed out. “She was ready to play.”
Roberts praised his team for continuing to hit the ball once the early deficit was erased.
“It seems like when we get ahead everybody calms down and hits even better,” Roberts said. “If I could figure out a way to start a game like that, we’ll be in good shape.”
Winning the first two games was a milestone for ACS, the first time the Patriots had opened state tournament play with back-to-back wins.
“It’s huge to get to Saturday without a loss,” Roberts said after the Franklin County win. “We are in unknown territory.”
Saturday started with a match-up with Mercy. The Lady Jaguars reached the game with an upset of pre-tournament favorite Christian County. Once again, ACS started slow and quickly trailed in the game. Ashley McNutt opened the game with a double and came around to score on a double by teammate Chelsea Meiners.
After going in order in the first and second innings, the Patriots left two on base in the third. In the fourth, Patriot hitters were making adjustments, a tactic that started to pay off. Cornwell singled to start the inning and moved to second on a fielders’ choice. With two outs, Yates ripped a single to right field. Mercy’s outfielder Morgan Ellington fielded the ball cleanly and fired a shot to the plate. Cornwell was stopped in her tracks as she approached the platew. In the rundown that followed, Cornwell was tagged out as she slid into third. Mercy had stopped the threat.
Mercy added a run in the sixth before breaking the game open with three runs in the top of the seventh. The Patriots could not come back as Mercy’s Marissa Hobson and Jessica Francis combined to hold ACS batters to five hits in the game.
“I don’t know what it was,” Napier told reporters afterwards, “Hobson moved the ball around really well and Francis was really good too. We couldn’t get on her.”
ACS swapped fields to face Garrard County again. Things were different as ACS wasted little time in taking control.
In the home half of the first, Napier doubled to left, moved to third and scored on a passed ball---the first of 11 pass balls or wild pitches that would come in the game. ACS added three runs in the third. Harper and Yates scored on a Melton tripled with Melton capping the inning as she scored on a passed ball.
The Lady Lions pulled to within one after plating two runners in the top of the third. ACS answered with Cornwell and Yates scoring in the home half of the third to give ACS the 6-3 lead.
After Napier scored ACS’s seventh run in the fourth, the Patriots finished their 11 run outing with four runs in the bottom of the sixth. Napier, Cornwell, Wood and Harper crossed the plate as ACS exploded to an 11-3 lead.
On the mound, Pardue was in control. In five innings of work, the freshman allowed four hits, and struck out three. Yates relieved her in the sixth and seventh innings.
Within 30 minutes of the win over Garrard, ACS faced a senior dominated North Hardin team and drew first blood in the contest in the top of the second. Borders walked ans was replaced by Harper (courtesy runner for the catcher). Yates ripped a double to left center---deep enough to score the speedy Harper for the first run of the game.
North Hardin (31-5) answered in the bottom of the inning. Jessie Shartzer reached on a walk. Two batters later, Bethany Blaise’s single plated Shartzer. A Patriot overthrow on the relay to the plate allowed Blaise to move to third, putting her in position to score the go ahead run as Lindsey Blair blasted a hit past a diving Cornwell as second base. Two batters later, Blair gave the Lady Trojans a 3-1 lead as she scored on a single by Brooke Simmons.
ACS cut into the North Hardin lead as Meador scored in the top of the third. Allison Murley’s clutch single to left plated Meador. An inning later, the Patriots tied the game. Napier reached after being hit by a pitch, moved around the base path on an error, and raced home to score on a wild pitch.
Offensively, ACS could not push any runs across the rest of regulation play. Even though the team had runners on base in the latter innings, an inability by ACS hitters to move runners around the bases proved to be costly. Meanwhile, Pardue bounced back from a shaky second to hold the Lady Trojans in check. Runs---and base runners---were limited, thus sending the game into an extra inning.
In the top of the eighth, ACS could not take advantage of a lead off single by Wood, leaving her stranded on base. In the Lady Trojan’s at bat, Sarah Anderson smacked a sinle to left. Andrea Whlean’s double to right center put runners on second and third. ACS walked Jessie Shartzer to load the bases, and set up a force at home. North’s Kelsey Whelan lined to Cornwell for the first out. Cornwell made the play and fired to Wood at third, in an attempt to pick off a retreating Anderson. The throw sailed off Anderson as she dived to the bag, landing in front of the ACS dugout. By the time Wood retrieved the ball and fired to Borders at the plate, Anderson had scored to give her team the walk-off win.
“It was a great stand there,” Roberts said. “I thought we were going to get out of it. We load the bases and she hits a line drive. Macey (Cornwell) catches the ball and attempts to get the lead runner. If we get a force out in that situation, it’s two outs and maybe we’re back into it.”
After the game, Roberts explained that fatigue and the situation may have started to come into play as the innings piled up.
“I think it took its toll on us a little bit,” Roberts noted. “A lot of our players had never been this deep in the state tournament, so I‘m sure in the back of their minds there was some doubt about whether they could do it or not. To their credit they kept coming back and giving people good games and did a good job I thought.”
ACS (37-8-1) placed two players on the all-tournament team----senior Emma Napier and freshman Kelsi Pardue.
The loss ends the high school careers of seniors Emma Napier and Emily Meador as well as senior base-runner Shelby Harper. Yet, for Napier and Meador , softball will continue. Napier will be playing at Campbellsville while Meador has signed to play at Centre.
North Hardin lost to Mercy in the next game with Owensboro Catholic defeating Mercy to win the 2009 softball title.