Franklin County and Lexington Catholic both have schools geographically closer to them, but you'd be hard-pressed to find a bigger fast-pitch softball rivalry in the 11th Region.
It was the Lady Flyers who came out on top of the latest battle between the Top 25 teams. They got a sharp pitching performance from Emily Hampton and a solo home run from Ashli Mayes en route to a 3-0 victory over the Lady Knights.
"There's a lot of tradition in both programs; we've had a very healthy rivalry over the years," Franklin County Coach Tracy Spickard said. "Both programs have a lot of respect for each other, and it's always a tight ball game."
The No .25 Lady Flyers scored in the second inning when Mollie Stephens tried to steal second base with two outs, allowing Emmy King to score from third when Catholic botched the rundown.
That proved to be enough for Hampton, who found her groove early. She worked the outside corners to near perfection, allowing four hits and striking out ten.
"We were a little bit lethargic to start out, but Emily settled in and did a real nice job," Spickard said. "She really stepped up in the clutch."
Hampton sounded pleased with her performance.
"The past couple of games I've been kind of wild, but I felt pretty good out there today," she said. "This was a big win."
Lexington Catholic, ranked 19th in the state coaches' poll, didn't capitalize on a couple of scoring opportunities. The biggest came in the second inning when Catholic got the two lead runners on but suffered a strikeout and a runner's interference to end the rally.
"We were in situations where we couldn't get that key hit," Lexington Catholic Coach Bob Griggs said. "And when we did hit the ball, they made good defensive plays in the outfield."
Franklin County took a 2-0 lead in the sixth when Mayes jumped on a pitch from Molly Dawson and sent it over the left-field fence.
"That one was a no doubter," Spickard said. "She got all of that one."
Mayes wasn't so sure.
"The pitch was belt-high, just where I like it, but honestly, I thought it was going to be another pop-up," Mayes said. "It just kept carrying."
Franklin County got another insurance run in the seventh on Brandi Allen's RBI single.
The Lady Flyers' 16-14 record isn't sparkling but, after a brutal early-season schedule and a rash of injuries, they seem to be hitting their stride as the district tournament approaches.
"We've been inconsistent and had some ups and downs, but we've also played some tough teams and had a lot of people hurt," Spickard said. "It took us three-fourths of the year before we finally could put a healthy lineup out there and, knock on wood, we seem to be fully healthy right now. That's what you want to do, to pick up momentum as you finish down the stretch."
The two teams could add another chapter to the rivalry in the 11th Region Tournament, and Griggs hopes that the loss will be a good teaching tool for his team.
"One hit or one defensive play here or there, and we would have been closer and had a chance to win the ball game," Griggs said. "We've just got to be hungry and come ready to play each and every game."
Franklin County 010 001 1—3 7 0
Lex. Catholic 000 000 0—0 4 2
Hampton and Allen. Dawson, Hambrick and Simms. WP—Hampton. LP—Dawson.
Records: Franklin Co. 16-14, Lex. Catholic 16-12