The hot start by the Henry County softball team has led the Ladycats to one of their best opening two weeks in program history.
The Ladycats were 3-0 during the first week, then defeated Oldham County (6-4) last Monday, Owen County (7-0) Tuesday, and split their four games in the Southern Spring Break Tournament over the weekend — defeating Calloway (4-2) and Cooper (11-1), while losing to Beth Haven (6-0) and Simon Kenton (1-0). Also, they were ahead of Carroll County, 2-0, last Thursday night before the game was stopped due to lightning.
The 7-2 start, which will improve to 8-2 if Henry holds off Carroll in two more innings, was just what first-year head coach Suzanne Cates was looking for from a promising squad.
“That’s a great start,” Cates said. “I’ve been comparing our team to the previous four years and this is the best start we’ve had, and we’ve played strong competition. For it being this early in the season, I’m really proud of them.”
After starting perfect at 3-0, that streak appeared to be in jeopardy last Monday night as the Ladycats hosted Oldham in an 8th Region showdown. But Henry never trailed and went ahead for good during the bottom of the sixth inning. The Cats held on for the 6-4 victory to erase a few close losses to Oldham in previous seasons.
The Ladycats scored the game’s first run during the bottom of the second inning when Taylor Clark hit a double, advanced to third on Heidi Smith’s single and scored on a Veronica Hornback hit. The Cats scored two more runs during the bottom of the fifth inning — thanks to a home run by Allison Vaughn. With Jessica Booher on first base, Vaughn smacked the ball over the left-field fence to put Henry ahead 3-1. (It was Henry’s second home run of the season, including one by Clark in the opening week.)
Before Vaughn’s homer, in the top of the fifth, Oldham almost took a commanding lead but a game-changing play from Smith left the score tied at 1. With bases loaded, one run already scored and just one out, Oldham smacked the ball to deep left field along the sideline. Smith backpedaled and came up with the catch, then threw the ball to third base, where an Oldham player was called out for leaving the bag too early. The double play left the score tied before Vaughn came to the plate and belted the homer.
Oldham responded by scoring two runs during the top of the sixth inning to tie the game again. But in the bottom of the sixth, Veronica Hornback singled, Karie Powell drew a walk, Booher drew another walk and eighth-grader Krista DeBurger hit a deep shot for a triple that scored all three runners and left Henry ahead for good. Oldham hit a one-out home run during the top of the seventh but Booher struck out the next two batters to end the game.
“That was an impressive game,” Cates aid. “When they scored we were able to come back and add more runs. We never gave up. Oldham pushed and we pushed right back. This was a good game to show where we’re at this early in the season.”
Not sure how her team would respond after the emotional win, Cates was very pleased that the Ladycats were able to come back the following day and beat Owen, 7-0, on the road.
“We talked to them about not letting Owen sneak up on us,” Cates said. “We had to go there and take care of business. I liked the way we responded.”
Then, last Thursday, Henry was ahead of Carroll, 2-0, when lightning was spotted in the area and the game was called off. In order to count a game in the record books, five complete innings have to be played. Henry will travel to Carroll this Saturday at noon to finish the game — the Ladycats only outing this week.
After the delay, the weather cleared enough for the Ladycats to get in two games on Friday and two on Saturday in the Southern Spring Break Tournament at Southern High. The tourney had eight teams that were split into two pools. The top two teams from each pool then advanced to a single-elimination tournament, which included two semi-final games and a finals.
Henry defeated Calloway, 4-2, and lost to Beth Haven, 6-0, on Friday, then defeated Cooper, 11-1, on Saturday to advance to the single-elimination tournament.
“There were some teams tied so for us to advance we knew we had to score 11 runs during our first game on Saturday,” Cates said of the tie-breaker. “And that’s exactly what we scored.”
The Ladycats then played Simon Kenton — a squad the Ladycats lost to, 5-1, in a scrimmage on March 20. This time around, the two teams were much closer as they went back and forth the entire game. The only run came during the bottom of the seventh inning when Simon Kenton’s first batter in the inning, and No. 4 in the lineup, smacked the ball over the fence for a walk-off homer to give Simon the 1-0 win.
“That showed us how much we improved from the scrimmage,” Cates said. “I told our players afterwards that they had nothing to be ashamed of. For it to come down to a walk-off home run just shows how far we’ve come.”
The Ladycats had the base runners, but could not get them across home plate. Allyson Vaughn hit a double midway through the contest but was eventually thrown out between second and third base. No Henry batter advanced to third.
During the four-game stretch in just two days, Cates said her team played just one bad inning. In the Beth Haven game Friday night, Henry gave up all six runs during the fourth inning in what turned out to be the deciding factor. Beth Haven started with a walk, got a pair of hits, then Henry committed consecutive errors that allowed Haven to get on the scoreboard. They strung together six runs before the third out, which were the only runs during the game from either team.
Aside from that inning, Cates said her team played very well. Booher continued to show progress in the pitcher’s circle — the sophomore has thrown every pitch this season — the Hornback sisters (Miranda and Veronica) had solid hits, Vaughn and Taylor gave Henry a spark at the plate, and Macie New was the “defensive all-star” with several balls hit to her position at second base and only one error committed. It was an all-around team effort.
“Everyone hit well, from one to nine,” Cates said. “Everything was great for us: our hitting, pitching, defense. Hopefully we can keep it going.”
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