Kentucky’s top-ranked softball team survived an extra-innings scare to advance to the championship game in the KHSAA state softball tournament at the University of Kentucky’s John Cropp Stadium.
“It’s kind of the goal we had sort of set for ourselves at the beginning of the year,” Male Coach Josh Bloomer said after his team’s 2-1 victory over Clay County on Friday afternoon. “To give ourselves a chance to be playing in that last game of the day, I can’t give anything more than the greatest respect for the Clay County team.”
Clay County got on base on the first pitch of the game, then immediately took advantage and an early 1-0 lead on an RBI single from Brianda Owens. The Tigers had two more runners on base, but were unable to capitalize and left both stranded to end the frame.
Neither team was able to score in the second inning despite Male’s Madison McCoy stealing second and third before being left stranded. It was more of the same in the third, leaving the No. 1 team in the state trailing by the slimmest of margins.
The Bulldogs finally got their first hit off of Owens, Clay County’s starting pitcher, in the bottom of the fourth. Jacklyn Zuege then stole second, third and finally home to tie the game up at 1-1 before the Tigers were able to end the inning.
In the fifth inning it remained a struggle for Clay County to find any offense following their early burst as Male relief pitcher Kelsie Houchens struck out two batters to keep the game tied. Male’s Lauren Pelton reached second base on an error but was left stranded to keep the game tied going into the sixth inning.
Both teams were unable to get across the plate in the seventh, and the game went into extra innings. Clay County nearly got a runner on in the eighth, but Male was bailed out by an athletic catch.
Male’s Elizabeth Lampe got into scoring position with no outs in the bottom of the eighth and advanced to third base on a bunt single by Jadyn Thompson. A wild pitch by Owens brought Lampe home to end the game and keep the Bulldogs undefeated and put them in the championship game.
Male will take on the Warren East-Central Hardin winner in the championship on Saturday evening. Bloomer said that he didn’t care which squad his team sees in the final game.
“I don’t,” Bloomer said. “We played Central earlier in the year. It was a great game, They’re swinging it well … I’ll stay and I’ll watch it; the team will take care of themselves and we’re just glad to be there and so we’re looking forward to the opportunity to go compete.”