The Warren East Lady Raiders punched their ticket to the KHSAA softball title game on Saturday, taking down the Lady Bruins of Central Hardin to earn the right to face No. 1-ranked Male in the finals.
Warren East head coach Philip McKinney was thrilled by his team’s effort going into the championship game.
“Whatever happens, happens, “ McKinney said. “You’re gonna win some, you’re gonna lose some. I always tell them, though, be in the conversation. Be there. Get to that game. Whatever you got to do, get to that game and give yourself a chance.”
Warren East threatened early, holding Central Hardin scoreless in the top of the first inning before getting into scoring position in the bottom of the frame. However, the Lady Bruins responded well to the early challenge, sending the remaining Lady Raiders back to the dugout.
Warren East was able to open the scoring in the second inning with an RBI triple by Emmah Young knocking in Kya Elkin. Young then scored on a sacrifice bunt by Shelby Trent and Kelsey Sparks knocked in Trent with a single to left field.
After holding Central Hardin scoreless in top of the third, the Lady Raiders were again knocking on the door in the bottom of the inning. However, the Lady Bruins put up a strong defensive effort to send Warren East back into the field.
Central Hardin put runners on first and third with two out in the fifth inning before a bungled throw on a steal attempt by Emily Bryant brought home Angel Ashlock to make the score 3-1 Warren East.
The Lady Raiders wasted no time in getting the run back, though, as Miss Softball winner Katie Gardner launched a solo home run to center field to make the score 4-1 at the end of the fifth.
Central Hardin loaded the bases with two outs in the final frame, but Warren East came through in the end with Gardner getting the final strikeout to send the Lady Raiders to the championship game against Male, which is led by head coach Josh Bloomer.
“Bloomer year in and year out has a top notch program,” McKinney said. “When he was at Louisville Mercy he won a state championship. He’s been in this game quite a few times at two different schools.”