NICHOLASVILLE — East Jessamine is hot.
The Jaguars take a 13-game winning streak into the Worth/KHSAA Fast Pitch Softball State Tournament, which opens Thursday at Owensboro's Jack C. Fisher Park.
"I think we can win it all, really, if we play like we know how," said Sarah Rainwater, a junior who plays center field.
East Jessamine (30-9), which will open against sixth-ranked Scott County (28-8), has gotten to this point by overcoming injury, beating its regional nemesis and by pounding the ball.
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Most notable on the injury front, a line drive struck ace pitcher Haylee Hamm in the left eye and kept her out of action for five weeks. She came back with a vengeance, firing shutouts in five of her first six games back. She goes into the state tourney with an 18-3 record and 130 strikeouts.
"I couldn't ask for a better outcome," said Hamm, daughter of Coach Tom Hamm. "I'm playing, and I'm going to get to play in state, and I got to finish my senior year, so it's great. (The injury) doesn't even bother me."
In her absence from the circle, sophomore Allison Schubert compiled a 7-4 record and freshman Jessica Tucker went 6-1.
The regional nemesis is Boyle County, which represented the 12th Region in each of the last two State Tournaments. East Jessamine edged the Rebels 9-7 in this year's region finals.
"I've been coaching softball for 12 years and I've never had a team that's had more desire and more heart," Tom Hamm said. "They've been imposing their will on other teams. They will never give up. They've been driven.
"I think the loss we had last year — we were ahead of Boyle County 2-0 going into the sixth inning ... and things kind of got away from us at the end of the game, and I think it really motivated our team, and I think they've used that as motivation all year."
As for pounding the ball, East Jessamine is leading the state in runs (383) and home runs (42), according to statistics compiled by MaxPreps.
Five Jaguars are batting over .400 — Rainwater (.407), Hamm (.409), Malin Miracle (.418), Tucker (.439) and Schubert (.463). Miracle leads the team with a school-record 15 homers, two ahead of Schubert. Rainwater, who set a school mark with 13 dingers last season, has eight.
"Kevin (Dennis), our hitting coach, just tells me 'go up there and hit through the ball' and 'think hit through the middle,'" said Miracle, a sophomore third baseman. "Usually when I do that I kind of connect and it just goes."
"I guess we just know how to hit," said Rainwater, who leads the state with 60 RBI. "We're all really strong, too, kind of."
Added Schubert, a sophomore left fielder who has 54 RBI: "I just try and get that full extension. That's basically what I'm looking for because if I don't get full extension, it's not going to go anywhere; I pull off the ball."
As for Scott County, the Cardinals topped East Jessamine 8-6 on April 16. But that's when Haylee Hamm was sidelined.
This time, she is expected to match up against Scott County ace Marlee Tevis.
"Scott County's a very good team," Tom Hamm said. "I truly believe that their team and our team have two of the best pitchers in the state. Their stats back that up and what they've been able to accomplish in their time in high school.
"I think with two good pitchers like that, it's just a matter of who's going to make the most contact and hit the best and not make errors. While they're a great team, I think I've got a great team ... so I look forward to a good matchup."