(by Don Meador, The Citizen-Times June 2009)
Following Allen County-Scottsville’s practice Monday afternoon, the Patriot team gathered around Coach Rick Roberts. After going over the schedule for the next few days, including what areas to work on in final preparation for this week’s state tournament at Jack Fisher Park in Owensboro, Roberts reminded his team of one important thing.
“It’s one game at a time,” Roberts said. “One game at a time.”
ACS, ranked sixth in the state in the latest Kentucky Association of Softball coaches poll, will enter state tournament play on a short list of teams considered with a shot at bringing home a state championship trophy. Christian County, the state’s number one ranked team with a 38-3 worksheet, is the favorite. A close second would be second ranked Owensboro Catholic (30-8-1), the only Kentucky team to have defeated Christian County this year. Also on the list is fourth ranked North Laurel (31-7) and fifth ranked Mercy (29-10-1).
ACS opens play in the 16-team double elimination KHSAA fast pitch state tournament Friday morning against 22nd ranked Garrard County (25-13), a team that ACS defeated 7-1 at a tournament at North Laurel in April.
“They can put the ball in play against good pitching,” Roberts pointed out. “They beat Southwestern in the region facing a team that struck out 17 in a loss. We will have to be ready to go.”
Roberts is quick to point out that his team will focus on Garrard County but also work on making sure ACS sticks to playing their game, starting with the first game.
“We have to do what we do more so than worrying about what they do,” Roberts said. “We have to hit the ball hard, play great defense and have good pitching.”
The Patriots hitting is solid. As a team ACS has a .292 batting average. The Patriots have recorded 328 hits including 72 doubles, nine triples and 12 home runs. Leading the way in batting (among regular players) is Napier, batting .400. Cornwell follows with a .328 clip with Wood (.311) and Stovall (.311) above the .300 level. Yates Borders and Meador are within percentage points of .300 as well.
Defensively, the Patriots have an overall fielding percentage of .948. In 41 games, the team had committed 48 errors.
“We have a good defensive team this year,“ Roberts stated. “Macey and Emma in the middle infield is the best we have had and ACS has had some great infielders. They communicate well and they work well with each other. They also will slow the game. With Emma, when things get tight, she go in to one of our young pitchers and just tells them everything will be okay. Just having those two in the game has really helped our defensive situation. Amanda and Caley also have had great years at the corners.
Stats show ACS’s pitching has a combined 1.36 ERA (Earned Run Average). ACS pitching has given up 175 hits and allowed 52 earned runs. Opponents have also scored 20 unearned runs.
Individually, Pardue has thrown 124 innings, is 15-3 on the season with an ERA of 1.24 and has recorded 133 strikeouts. Yates has pitched 103 innings, has an ERA of 0.95, fanned 83 and is 14-2 on the year. Meador is 5-1 in 41 innings of work with an ERA of 2.73.
“Our pitchers have been able to get us between six and ten strikeouts each game,” Roberts explained. “It’s a big deal to have girls who have pitched a lot, “It’s also good that we have different combinations, left hand, right hand, one is a low, over and around pitcher and another is a fastball pitcher. If we can stay in the tournament for a few games, having our pitching combination will play a large role. Overall, If we get good defense, pitching and hitting, we will be a tough out in the tournament.”
This is ACS’s fourth regional championship since the 2000 team got things going. Consistency this decade has been due in part to a continued supply of talented players and individuals willing to work with developing players.
“Our little league program has been strong both in slow pitch and later in fast pitch,” Roberts explains. “That feeds the desire. We have summer ball teams in the county. We have BSA softball, a softball facility that’s local which helps players with pitching and hitting.”
Now the Patriots will journey to Owensboro looking to work their way through the tournament one game at a time. Even though this will be the first time most of ACS’s players have taken part in the state tournament, facing top flight opponents is nothing new.
“None of our players have played a huge role in the state tournament,” Roberts said. “Emma (Napier) and Emily (Meador) were there in 2005 but not in a major role. But our seniors have shown great leadership all year and have led this team back to the state tournament. Plus, we have played a very tough schedule. Our pitchers have faced some nationally ranked teams,” “We played and beat the Tennessee 2-A state champions, we played the Tennessee state runner-up in 3-A in Beech. Down the line, facing big teams in big tournaments makes a difference.”
Win or lose at 9:00 a.m. Friday, ACAS will be back in action at 12:15 p.m. After that the schedule is based on whether or not ACS is in the winners or losers bracket. Basically, two wins on Friday will advance a team into Saturday’s action which begins at 9:00 a.m. The state title game is scheduled to start Saturday afternoon at 5:00 p.m.