For Allen County-Scottsville senior Bailey Ausbrooks, the 2022 District 15 tournament championship game will be something that she will long remember. Her fifth-inning grand slam broke a 1-1 deadlock with Barren County and helped the Lady Patriots to a 6-4 win over the Trojanettes.
The District tournament championship---the team’s first since 2018---marked a return of the Lady Patriot program to a familiar position. Since fastpitch softball debuted in the mid-1990s to 2018, AC-S has claimed 19 District 15 titles. Last week, AC-S reached the 20th title after four years of missing out on the championship hardware.
The win also showcased a team that appears to be rising to the challenge of post season play and doing what it takes to win. In the opening round of the tournament, AC-S rallied from an early deficit to defeat Monroe County 11-3. Against Barren County, the team also fell behind early but solid pitching and defense proved to be a key to AC-S coming back for the win.
“The key for us is that we have peaked at the right time,” explained coach Brad Bonds. “I’m not sure our pitchers have been perfectly sharp but they have thrown well enough to win. Another key right now is that we are making plays defensively. Against Monroe County (right fielder) Addy Law made two plays that were big for us and against Barren County, Bean (Jayleigh Steenbergen) was all over the outfield making plays. Against Barren we got the big defensive out when we needed it all night long and then had timely hitting.”
Barren County struck first with a run in the home half of the first inning. In the third, Lady Patriot Katie Jo Scott reached on a leadoff double. Hadley Borders followed with an RBI single to plate Scott and tie the game. In the bottom of the inning, a Steenbergen catch and throw to Brooklyn Oliver at first doubled off Trojanette Kate Murphy to squash a potential scoring threat for Barren County.
After an uneventful fourth inning for both teams, the fifth would be huge for AC-S. Scott singled with one out and moved to second on a Borders’ single. Lady Patriot Ally Anderson reached first on a bunt single---loading the bases for Ausbrooks. The Vol State bound Lady Patriot turned on a Lillie Broady pitch and lifted the ball off the scoreboard for the grand slam.
“Our timely hitting led to us loading the bases and they had to pitch to Bailey,” Bonds recounted. “She delivered. That’s what seniors do. She delivered in the moment. That gave us a comfortable lead and it let our kids settle in.”
Barren County battled back. A Murphy triple in the bottom of the fifth drove home the Trojanettes second run of the game. However, AC-S countered in the sixth. With two runners on, Border’s third hit of the game pushed pinch runner Kaitlyn Duncan across enabling AC-S to retake a four-run lead, 6-2. The Trojanettes added a run in the sixth and Murphy homered to lead off the seventh. However, solid defense and relief pitching from Oliver enabled AC-S to take the game.
“After Bailey’s home run, we knew Barren County was not going away,’ Bonds said. “They kept getting on base and putting the pressure on. It just seemed like that when we needed the big stop, we got the big defensive play. The kids have just bought into what we have asked them to do and they are playing their best softball right now.”
The Lady Patriots finished with 12 hits. In addition to Borders’ three singles, Anderson, Bailey Ausbrooks, and Scott also had two-hit games. Aubrey Williams, Addison Ausbrooks, and Law also singled. In the circle, Addison Ausbrooks worked five innings and allowed three hits. Oliver pitched the final two innings giving up two hits.
Last week’s win came a night after the Lady Patriots rallied from an early and mid-game deficit verses Monroe County. Going to the bottom of the fifth, AC-S trailed 3-2. However, AC-S responded with a statement. In the fifth, 12 Lady Patriots came to the plate which resulted in eight runs. The big inning turned the tide. By the time Rice homered in the sixth, AC-S was in control.
The win over Monroe County assured that AC-S would play in the Region 4 tournament last weekend. Their appearance will be the 25th consecutive year that AC-S will have reached the regional round of the postseason.