Photo slideshow: Warren East defeats Ashland Blazer in state softball quarterfinals
Warren East has never won a high school fast-pitch softball state championship. On Friday, the Lady Raiders took care of business as expected and moved one step closer to that goal.
Starting pitcher Katie Gardner allowed one run on four hits over five innings to lead Warren East (35-2) into Saturday’s semifinals of the KHSAA State Softball Tournament with an 8-1 victory over Ashland Blazer.
“We knew Katie could mix it up a little bit,” Warren East Coach Philip McKinney said. “You know the word’s out about what she throws, you know, it’s ‘she’s got a rise ball, she’s got a rise ball.’ She did a good job throwing the curve in and mixing in a couple change-ups.”
The victory for the second-ranked Lady Raiders set up a showdown with fourth-ranked Central Hardin (36-7) at noon Saturday at the University of Kentucky’s John Cropp Stadium. Central Hardin was responsible for one of Warren East’s two defeats this season, a 5-4, nine-inning decision in Elizabethtown on May 13 that snapped a 28-game winning streak for the Lady Raiders.
Central Hardin advanced Friday with a 12-0 mercy-rule win over Pendleton County.
Warren East immediately provided support for Gardner on Friday afternoon, getting two runs across the plate on a fielding error by Ashland Blazer (25-12) in the top of the first inning.
“We always struggle at the beginning normally,” Warren East’s Shelby Trent said. “But we had to stay loud in the dugout and keep everybody up and make sure that we stay on the ball.”
Gardner, who fanned nine batters Friday, struck out the side in the second inning before allowing the Blazers’ only run of the game in the third on a home run by sophomore Lauren Spears.
Warren East extended its lead to 3-1 in the fourth when Hailey Hymer singled to drive home Kya Elkin, then broke things open in the fifth.
One run scored when a batter was hit with the bases loaded, another on a wild pitch and one more on a single. Suddenly it was 6-1.
Ashland Blazer could not break through again versus Gardner, but tried its luck against a new Warren East pitcher — Emma Markham. The freshman was up to the task, striking out the side in the sixth.
Elkin drove home an insurance run for Warren East in the seventh, then scored on a double by Trent to set the 8-1 final score.
Markham recorded a fourth strikeout while setting down Ashland Blazer in order in the seventh to end it.