OWENSBORO — Overall, the Fast Pitch State Softball Tournament was a success for Franklin County, as the Lady Flyers were one of the final six teams standing for the first time in school history.
But in the end, the energy and fortitude that allowed the Lady Flyers to hang around for that long ultimately caught up with them.
Franklin County opened Saturday with a 3-0 win over Conner, the team that eliminated No. 1 Christian County on Friday. But in its next game, Franklin County gave up five runs in the fifth inning to North Hardin and fell 6-0.
The Lady Flyers played at 9 a.m. CDT on Friday, then played two more games at 12:15 and 5 p.m. They then had to play Conner at 9 a.m. Saturday and only got a short 15-20 minute break before facing North Hardin.
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"We just ran out of steam, and it showed," Franklin County Coach Tracy Spickard said. "It's a tough format. You work hard and condition yourself and get in the weight room, but no matter how hard you work, to play that many games in two days is tough."
It especially took a toll on Franklin County pitcher Emily Hampton, who was an iron woman throughout the tournament. But after three wins — including a shutout of Conner — Hampton broke down against North Hardin. The Lady Trojans roughed her up for five runs and five hits in the fourth inning.
"It wears you out," Hampton said. "If we had a few more breaks and could have saved some energy, I think we could have gone farther. But it was a great experience. We really want to come back next year and go farther."
Franklin County broke open a scoreless tie with Conner in the sixth inning. Dana Jarboe had a leadoff double in the left-center field gap, and Abby Davis followed with a double in almost the same spot to drive in Jarboe. Davis then scored Franklin's second run when she got caught in a rundown between third base and home but was able to slide under the tag at the plate. Heather Redmon's RBI groundout gave the Lady Flyers a 3-0 lead.
That clutch performance combined with North Hardin's 15-1 loss to Owensboro Catholic in its previous game had Spickard feeling good.
"I thought we had some momentum and maybe had a chance to catch North Hardin on their heels a little after that Owensboro Catholic game, but they're a solid, well-coached team," Spickard said.
Things fell apart for the Lady Flyers in the fourth inning. Lindsey Blair's fielder's choice scored Jessie Shartzer, and Amy Hedrick and Sarah Anderson both had two-run singles to put Franklin County in a 5-0 hole. The Lady Flyers never threatened after that.
"When you start to get tired and then the other team gets hot and gets a little momentum, things can get out of hand in a hurry," Spickard said.
Franklin County loses only three seniors, so Spickard hopes this experience can be a springboard to bigger things. She said the level of softball in the 11th Region has improved dramatically and that an area team eventually will win a state championship.
"I feel like the teams in the Central and Eastern part of the state are starting to catch up with the western part of the state," Spickard said. "We've got the talent now. I think we just need to continue to work hard and build off experiences like these."