Ten sets of twins are on track to graduate from Boyle County High School
Male softball will be looking to make history as only the second team ever to go undefeated and win the KHSAA State Softball Tournament this weekend at the University of Kentucky’s John Crop Stadium.
To match Greenwood’s 2013 title run, the No. 1 Bulldogs face a formidable field of five other ranked teams among the final eight, including last year’s runner-up, No. 2 Warren East. Also surviving last week’s semi-state rounds at sites across Kentucky were No. 4 Central Hardin, No. 6 Boyle County, No. 15 Clay County, No. 20 Madisonville, the 2017 champion, and unranked Ashland Blazer and Pendleton County.
No longer a 16-team double-elimination bracket, the final eight square off in a win-or-go-home event beginning at 10 a.m. Friday through Sunday’s 2 p.m. state title game.
Unless Madisonville wins out, there will be a first-time champ. While dispensing with the loser’s bracket path might seem unfair, consider that since the loser’s bracket was put in place in 2002, only two teams have won the crown after a loss. Owensboro Catholic did it twice (2003 and 2005).
Male and Warren East appear on a collision course for the finals, but anything can happen in single-elimination. Here’s a look at this weekend.
Arriving at the state quarterfinals undefeated seems unlikely. Arriving undefeated out of Louisville’s 7th Region seems impossible, but Male at 36-0 has done it with a nearly unrivaled combination of pitching and pop that has it nationally ranked as the No. 3 team in the USA Today Super 25.
Senior Madison McCoy leads the offensive attack with team highs in hits (52), runs (49) and batting average (.461). Each would rank her well within the top 25 for each category in the state if the KHSAA had the Bulldogs’ stats for the last half of the season.
One must go six hitters through the lineup before finding a Male batter hitting less than .400. Megan Konermann has 12 home runs and 41 RBI to lead the team in those categories. And no team has hit more homers than the Bulldogs (61) this season.
Inside the circle, the Bulldogs might be even tougher with a 1-2 punch from Kelsie Houchens (17-0, 0.71 ERA) and Jaelyn Sanders (10-0, 0.91 ERA).
Looking to knock out Male will be No. 5 Boyle County (31-6), who survived perhaps the toughest semi-state matchup last week in topping No. 7 Woodford County 3-2.
Katy Grace Chadwell (20-4, 2.40 ERA) will try to keep Male in check, but is also a big contributor at the plate, leading her team with 43 RBI. Izzy Gervacio leads Boyle in batting average (.446) and runs scored (44).
East is a Beast
If Male comes in as the favorite, a close second goes to No. 2 Warren East, a team that matches the Bulldogs almost stat for stat.
With a team batting average of .408 led by two hitters who almost defy logic by hitting above .500 in Kelsey Sparks and Lucy Patterson, the Raiders (34-2) should fear no one.
In the circle, Katie Gardner led the state with 30 wins against one loss and a minuscule 0.71 ERA. Her 321 strikeouts (almost two per inning) also lead the state.
Trying to knock off the Raiders on Friday will be unranked Ashland Blazer (25-11), led by Lauren Spears’ 59 hits and 51 runs scored to go with a .468 average. The Kittens have two pitchers who almost evenly split duties in Mykayka Akers (13-6, 2.27 ERA) and Halie Haney (12-5, 1.90 ERA).
After suffering two straight losses to end the regular season and losing its district finals, Ashland’s offense broke out in the 16th Region Tournament with 10-0 and 12-0 wins on its way to state.
Central Hardin, ranked No. 4 by the coaches to end the regular season, packs, perhaps, the most offensive firepower in the quarterfinals as it leads the state in runs (375) and hits (440) and ranks second in home runs to Male (57).
Peyton Beger’s 15 home runs are the most for a player in the tourney, and teammates Angel Ashlock and Emily Bryant each have 11. Beger leads Central Hardin (35-7) with a .482 average and 54 RBI.
The Bruins will face 26-14 Pendleton County, the other of the tournament’s two unranked teams. Regan Carlisle leads the LadyCats with a .488 batting average and 47 RBI.
The third game of the day could also be the best game of the day as No. 15 Clay County (35-2) faces No. 20 Madisonville (24-9) at 4 p.m..
Madisonville won it all in 2017 and has Courtney Patterson (21-6, 2.12) inside the circle, one of the state’s leading strikeout pitchers with 195 punch-outs. Patterson also leads the Maroons at the plate with a .429 average and 37 RBI.
Clay County answers with its own pitching phenom in Brianda Owens (26-2, 0.51 ERA), who compiled 213 strikeouts and ranks second in the state in earned-run average. The Tigers have .478 hitter Maddie Frazier, .473 hitter Shelby Phillips, and .448 hitter Emma Hurd leading the attack. Owens also chips in, hitting .448. Hurd leads the team in homers (13) and runs (52).
State softball tournament
When: Friday through Sunday
Where: UK’s John Cropp Stadium
10 a.m.: Central Hardin vs. Pendleton Co.
1 p.m.: Ashland Blazer vs. Warren East
4 p.m. Madisonville vs. Clay Co.
7 p.m. Male vs. Boyle Co.