On the strength of a six-run outburst in the fifth inning and stingy pitching all game, Paul Dunbar upset top-seeded Lafayette 9-1 in the 43rd District softball championship at Lexington Catholic on Wednesday.
The win was Dunbar’s first over Lafayette in three tries this season and marked the second straight year the Bulldogs have topped the Generals in the district finals. It was also the second straight day of revenge for Dunbar. In Tuesday’s semifinals against Tates Creek, which defeated Dunbar twice this season, the Bulldogs held on for a 7-6 win. Catcher Olivia Judy, who had a pair of doubles and an RBI triple against Lafayette, said the victory over the Commodores marked a turning point for the Bulldogs.
“The Tates Creek game was very nerve-wracking to the whole team, but it felt like we finally came together and got over the hump,” she said. “Our team hasn’t done so well so far this year, but things are turning around. We didn’t have a lot of energy early on and that’s definitely changed.”
Dunbar Coach Jennifer Hill said the team appears to have solved some issues which contributed to its early-season struggles.
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“We had some issues internally with some drama going on, and that happens in girls’ sports. I’m grateful that the girls were able to put that behind them and just start playing softball,” she said.
Hill said the Bulldogs’ pitching staff is rounding into shape at the right time. Starter Abigail Schweighardt and relievers Bailey Conley and Melissa Nelson combined to allow just four Lafayette hits in the finals.
“I was trying to paint the corners and get ahead,” Schweighardt said. “You’ve got to be confident in what you’re doing, you can’t show everyone you’re nervous. If the other team thinks you’re nervous, that gives them an advantage.”
The Bulldogs threatened in the first inning, using a single by Conley and a pair of walks to load the bases. But Lafayette starter Carlee Jeter induced two groundouts to end the frame.
Dunbar finally broke through in the top of the fourth when an infield hit by Erica Vain scored Mackenzie Dillon.
The Bulldogs added a pair of runs in the fifth on a two-run single to left field by Sydney Arnold. But the back-breaker came in the sixth inning, capped by a two-run blast over the center-field wall by Riley Brown, and an RBI triple by Judy that gave Dunbar a 9-0 lead.
“We didn’t worry about anything other than taking care of business, and if you think about what happened in the season, then this result isn’t what you’d expect,” Hill said. “I’m proud of the girls for looking forward and not worrying about what happened before.”
Dunbar and Lafayette will play in next week’s 11th Region Tournament, which Scott County won last year.
Josh Sullivan; 859-231-3225
Schweighardt, Nelson (6), Conley (7) and Judy; Jeter, Stephens (6) and Eye. W—Schweighardt. L—Jeter. 2B—L: Burke, Forish. PD: Judy (2). 3B—PD: Judy. HR—PD: Brown.
Records: Paul Dunbar 11-12, Lafayette 18-9.
11th Region Tournament
When: Monday through Wednesday
Where: Madison Central High School
Teams: Henry Clay, Lafayette, Madison Central, Madison Southern, Paul Laurence Dunbar, Scott County, Woodford County, Western Hills.