OWENSBORO — If Ashland Blazer had won the state softball title, Coach Dave Miller wouldn't have been any prouder of his team than he was Friday night.
"This is a tremendous group of kids," he said. "I didn't know how much heart they had until today."
With just 12 players, the Kittens managed to run through the consolation bracket gauntlet, playing three consecutive games without a break from morning until after dinner time.
They fell short 6-1 in their final game of the season against No. 16 Pleasure Ridge Park, but they were still winners to Miller.
Knowing they had only 12 players all season, Miller and his staff put the players through rigorous conditioning drills.
He said it paid off on Friday at Jack Fisher Park.
"It speaks to these girls and how hard they've worked," he said. "Nobody knows the hours of trying to prepare them for this. ... We knew we couldn't go very deep, so we had three- or four-hour practices in the heat. We'd just run miles and miles."
The Kittens fell into the consolation bracket after a tough first-round matchup with Calloway County.
That meant three games in the sweltering heat. Ashland started the morning with a big win over fourth-ranked Owensboro Catholic where it came back from three runs down to win with four runs in the sixth inning.
In the next game, the Kittens topped Hopkins County Central 1-0 despite getting just one hit to five for the Storm. The one hit by Katelyn Miller wasn't even the game-winner. That went to Kelsee Hammonds, who had an RBI in the third inning with her fielder's choice.
Aces fall in two again
For the second straight season, perennial power and fourth-ranked Owensboro Catholic was ousted from the state tournament in just two games.
The Aces, who have won a state-record five championships, blew a three-run lead against Lafayette in the late game on Thursday night and then were ousted from the event by No. 17 Ashland Blazer 7-6 in the morning's consolation bracket.
Catholic had a 6-3 lead after five innings only to watch Ashland scored four runs in the bottom of the sixth and win it.
Kelsee Hammonds had a three-run home run to lead the Kittens. Emily Preece added two hits and two RBI.
Montgomery needs eight to oust East Jessamine
Tournament first-timer East Jessamine — whose coach was let go in the middle of the season — didn't go down without a fight, taking No. 24 Montgomery County to eight innings before falling 15-12 in the consolation bracket. The Indians put down six runs in the eighth inning to walk away with the win.
Allyson Willoughby did the honors for Montgomery with her grand slam to left-center to end the game. She finished with two hits and six RBI.
The Indians couldn't keep up their momentum, though, and fell to Ryle 7-0 in their next consolation game to end their run.
Top teams advance
The two highest-ranked teams coming into the tournament are the two remaining teams without a loss in the double-elimination tournament. No. 1 Ballard and No. 3 Allen County-Scottsville will meet in the Saturday morning semifinals.
The Bruins still haven't lost to an in-state opponent. They have not met the Patriots yet this season.
Magoffin gets win
Magoffin County, making its first tournament appearance in school history, also earned its first tournament victory in school history here on Friday with an 11-2 win over Letcher County Central in the consolation bracket.
The Hornets were led in that game by Leanna Mullins' three hits and three RBI. Chelsey Cole also had three RBI with her double.
Pitcher Kelsey Prater earned the win, giving up one hit in seven complete innings, striking out nine.