Coach Mike Wainscott is a patient man, but his young Paul Laurence Dunbar team has tested that a time or two this season.
"We felt like this was going to be a good team, we just didn't know it would take this long to show it," Wainscott said with a smile.
The same Bulldogs team that's tested his patience this season gave him every reason to grin, coming from behind to score five runs in the seventh inning and upend host Lexington Catholic 8-5 in the 43rd District semifinals.
Dunbar, which lost to Catholic by seven-plus runs in both of their regular-season games this season, will face No. 12 Lafayette, an easy 13-1 winner over Tates Creek in the other semifinal, in Thursday's district title game.
Both games ended in decisive fashion.
For Lafayette, it was a three-run home run by Lauren Brockman in the fifth inning. It was the Generals' third homer of the game.
In the first game, the Bulldogs trailed 5-3 going into the final inning before their bats came alive.
"We felt like if we could be in the game that late, anything could happen," Wainscott said. "We felt great going into that last bat only down two."
Kristy Leininger's double started the big inning. Hannah Massengale added an RBI double of her own.
Dunbar went ahead for good 6-5 when Massengale's pinch runner, Emily Bryan, scored on a wild pitch. A passed ball brought in another run.
"We talk about being aggressive," Wainscott said. "That's part of our game to run when we can."
Massengale, Kaylie Zander and Kaitlyn Elias all batted in runs in the decisive seventh inning.
Elias, who did it via a triple, got hits in four of her five at-bats Wednesday night.
The sophomore said the chatter in the dugout was positive going into the seventh.
"We knew we could win, and we knew we could hit the ball," she said. "It was very exciting and once we got those first couple of runs, we knew we could do it."
It was a tough inning to take for the Knights (18-15), who ended the game with two strikeouts.
"They got a couple of key hits and got runners on and put us in a bad situation," Coach Bob Griggs said. "You've got to give them credit for putting the bat on the ball."
Wainscott and his players hope the seventh inning is a sign of good things to come as they head to the region tournament next week.
"We're just tickled to death to be here," he said. "We're just now a .500 team. We're even right now. They're only going to get better."
No. 12 Lafayette 13, Tates Creek 1 (five innings): The Generals looked like a team poised to win their fourth straight district title, with every player in the lineup getting a hit.
Hull started the first inning off right for Lafayette (20-10) with her two-run homer over the right-field wall. She batted in three runs in the win.
Alyssa Oakley added four RBI of her own, including a two-run homer in the second inning, in which the Generals scored five runs.
They would put three more on the board in the third inning before Brockman's three-run home run ended it.
Jaclyn Cooper of Tates Creek (12-23) singled in Kenzi Groft. It was the first run scored by a city team against the Generals this season.
Paul Dunbar 001 200 5—8 11 0Lex Catholic 102 200 0—5 12 3
Shelby Shanks, Kaylie Zander (3), Shanks (4) and Stephanie Harvey. Ashley Baker, Beth Roth (4), Molly Dawson (7), Roth (7) and Devin Walden. W—Shanks. L—Roth. 2B—Hannah Massengale 2 (PLD), Kristy Leininger (PLD). 3B—Kaitlyn Elias (PLD).
Records — Paul Laurence Dunbar 15-15, Lexington Catholic 18-15.
Tates Creek 010 00 —1 1 2
Lafayette 253 03—13 14 0
Finley Yuttayong and Megan Banahan. Cassidy Taylor and Alexis Hull. W—Taylor. L—Yuttayong. 2B—Taylor, Emily Kinkaid, Lauren Mitchell. 3B—Brittany Sims. HR—Hull, Alyssa Oakley, Lauren Brockman.
Records — Tates Creek 12-23, Lafayette 20-10.