The Henry County Lady Cats took advantage of playing on their home field during the 31st district tournament last week by beating Eminence and Carroll County to advance to the 8th Region tournament.
The Lady Cats were the fourth seed in the tournament and had to play three games to win the district title. They came up short in the championship game against Gallatin County, falling to the Lady Wildcats 6-1.
HCHS 15 EHS 0
The Lady Cats defeated the Warriors in three innings on May 19. Aly Stanley threw three perfect innings and eight different players scored runs. The Lady Cats had only four hits but took advantage of nine walks and four hit batters to end the game early.
“We did what we needed to do,” Lady Cat Coach Jon Kasten said. “I wanted our girls to get in good base running and work on their jumps and reactions to pitches. Aly did a great job, throwing three perfect innings.”
Warrior Coach Jerry Martin felt that pitching was the key.
“Pitching and throwing the ball for strikes has been our Achilles heel and we are working on it,” Martin said. “We only had two returning starters from last season and we were extremely young this season.”
Martin feels the middle school players benefited from the experience.
“The middle school season has been very beneficial,” Martin said. “We won several games and we are going to have the same girls in a summer league. The only way to build the high school team is to have a successful middle school program. We have several girls with potential as pitchers, which is key in fast-pitch softball. It takes extra time and commitment to become a good pitcher and we need to find girls that are willing to do what it takes to become a good pitcher.”
Martin feels the program is headed in the right direction.
“I had three girls who played last year but did not play this year come up to me and say that they were going to play next year and are very excited about it. That is very encouraging for the high school program.”
Martin was very complimentary of his two seniors, Samantha Thompson and Jamie Martin.
“Samantha would come in at the beginning of the season before I got to conditioning and already be talking to the younger girls and getting them started on running and working out,” he said. “She took a leadership role from the very beginning.
“Jamie really took ownership of the middle school team,” Martin continued. “She came to games and practices and helped in any way she could.
“Jamie never complained through all the adversity. When things were negative, Jamie took a big part in straightening things out and the team’s attitude was completely different afterward.”
HCHS 13 Carroll Co. 4
The Lady Cats played one of their most complete games of the season against the Lady Panthers the following night in the semifinals. They pounded out 14 hits, got good pitching from both Paige DeBurger and Stanley and made only one error in the field.
Henry County jumped on Carroll County for two runs in the first inning when Stanley led off with a double. Olivia Whaley followed with a double of her own to score Stanley. Whaley advanced to third on a wild pitch before a ground out by Haley Miles brought her home.
The Lady Cats added a run in third when Stanley doubled with one out and scored on a single by Cheyenne Clark.
DeBurger continued to pitch well, blanking the Lady Panthers through the first four innings and the Lady Cats added to their lead in the fourth.
Stanley led off with her third double of the game and advanced to third on a passed ball. Clark came through with a sacrifice fly to centerfield to bring Stanley home and give the Lady Cats a 4-0 lead.
Carroll County finally got a rally going in the fifth inning. After a lead off single and a force play at second the Lady Panthers added two more hits to load the bases
It looked like the Lady Cats might get out of trouble when DeBurger caught a soft pop up for the second out. But the Lady Panthers got a break when a ground ball to the right side was just out of the reach of a diving Whaley who got the tip of her glove on the ball but could not make a play and the Lady Panthers had their first run.
The next batter ripped a triple to centerfield that was just out of the grasp of a diving Stanley. That made the score 4-4 and Stanley relieved DeBurger before the next Lady Panther flied out to end the inning.
Henry County bounced back in the top of the sixth to get the lead back. Mikaela Cline singled to left field to lead off. Katie James then laid down a bunt and made it safely to first. After DeBurger hit into a force at third, Shelby Ray hit a line drive to centerfield that was caught for the second out. Molly Williamson then hit a hard ground ball to third that was misplayed and James scored to make it 5-4. Stanley followed a single to centerfield, with her fourth hit of the game, to score De Burger.
After Stanley held the Lady Panthers scoreless in the bottom of the sixth, the Lady Cats exploded for seven runs in the top of the seventh to put the game away against the top-seeded Lady Panthers.
Stanley finished a great day at the plate with her fourth double and fifth hit of the game to knock in two runs and make it 11-4. Freshman Haley Miles also had a big hit earlier in the inning when she tripled to score Clark and get the rally started.
“This was a great team win,” Kasten said. “Our girls really wanted this game. At the end of our last game with Carroll, which we won, some Carroll girls were taunting our girls as we were shaking their hands and our girls held onto that.
“Getting out and scoring two runs in the first on back-to-back doubles was huge for us,” Kasten continued. “Paige pitched a great game. She kept the hitters off balance for five innings and put the balls where we wanted them hit.”
Kasten thought the Lady Cats’ two runs in the sixth were the key.
“I was very impressed with the way we responded after they had a run to tie the game,” he said. “We came right out and scored to retake the lead. Then our girls left no doubt in the seventh when we batted around the lineup.”
Kasten complimented his junior pitcher/centerfielder, Stanley. “
Aly hit the ball extremely well, five for five with four doubles is pretty impressive,” Kasten said. “But all our girls hit the ball hard. Even our outs were hard hit balls. When eight out of nine girls score runs against a team like Carroll County, you are playing good all the way around.”
Gallatin Co. 6 HCHS 1
The Lady Wildcats owned two one-run wins over the Lady Cats coming into the game and Henry County wanted a different outcome this time around but the Lady Cats may have had trouble getting refocused after their big semifinal win over Carroll County.
After a scoreless first inning for both teams, Gallatin County scored two runs in the bottom of the second. Gallatin County got a lead off single followed by a walk and a passed ball to get runners on first and third with no outs. They scored their first run on a Lady Cat error. The Lady Wildcats’ second run came on a sacrifice bunt play.
Gallatin added two more runs in the third inning.
The Lady Cats got the first batter out on a foul pop up.
But Gallatin County came back with a double to left field. After the Lady Cats chose to walk Gallatin’s clean up hitter, the next batter hit a hard ground ball to Molly Williamson at third base. Williamson fielded the ball cleanly and turned and appeared to tag the runner advancing to third. The umpire said he saw no tag and after a conference between all three umpires the runner was ruled to be safe at third giving the Lady Wildcats the bases loaded with one out. The next batter singled to right field to score a run. The final run came on a fielder’s choice ground out to second base before Stanley struck out the final batter of the inning.
The Lady Cats threatened in the fifth when they loaded the bases with two outs but could not get a run across.
The Lady Cats escaped a one-out bases loaded jam in the bottom of the inning when Olivia Whaley snagged a hard line drive and threw quickly to first for a double play.
The game was put on hold after the fifth inning when a storm blew in and lightening halted play.
When play resumed on Thursday evening the Lady Cats’ offense finally came alive for a run in the top of the sixth.
Haley Miles led off with a single. After two line drive outs, DeBurger reached on an error and Miles advanced to third base. Shelby Ray followed with a groundball to shortstop that also resulted in an error and allowed Miles to score from third.
But Gallatin County responded in their half of the inning with two more runs to make it 6-1 and leave the Lady Cats needing five runs to keep their title hopes alive.
Stanley led off with a single and was forced out at second on a ground ball to shortstop by Whaley. Clark and Miles followed with singles to load the bases.
Gallatin County escaped the jam with a force out at the plate and a force out at second to end the game.
“We had a small letdown after the Carroll game,” Kasten said. “Gallatin is a very good team with a very good pitcher who will not give in to the hitters. She places her strikes on the corners of the zone and we took a lot of called strikes.
“A couple of miscues hurt us,” Kasten continued. “But I liked how we came back after the rain forced us to delay the game and came out with fight. We weren’t able to climb all the way back, but we did not quit and that’s a sign I like to see.”
A full account of the Lady Cats’ regional game with Walton will apear in next week’s issue.