Behind the speedy legs and hot bat of Tia Wilson and a gritty pitching performance by Bailey Conley, the Paul Laurence Dunbar softball team scored a 7-6 upset in the 43rd Region softball semifinals at Lexington Catholic on Tuesday.
Wilson got the Bulldogs on the board in the first inning, singling to left field and swiping the first of her five stolen bases before Brooke Hill brought her home with a shot down the left field line.
Wilson was the catalyst in the third inning as well. The junior centerfielder singled to right then stole second and third, scoring on a line drive by Olivia Judy. Three Bulldogs crossed the plate in the inning to build a 5-0 lead. Wilson went 4-4 and scored three runs on the night.
Dunbar starting pitcher Bailey Conley said it was hard to overstate Wilson’s value to the team.
“Tia has those awesome wheels and that really helps us,” she said. “She’s so great when she gets on base and she does that quite often.”
After the game Wilson was all smiles.
“This felt just great,” she said. “I was really nervous but we worked together and pulled through and I’m happy I could contribute a lot to my team.”
Bailey went six innings and fanned three batters before giving way to closer Abby Scheweighart. Dunbar head coach Jennifer Hill said Bailey showed steady nerves on the mound.
“It was a gritty performance,” she said. “I loved the way Bailey just kept us in it the whole time in the circle. She absolutely followed the game plan, keeping hitters off balance.”
Tates Creek refused to go quietly despite digging a deep hole. After the Commodores loaded the bases in the third inning, Breeann Whitson stepped to the plate and smashed an 0-2 pitch to the centerfield wall, cutting the Dunbar lead to 5-3. Trailing 7-5 in the bottom of the seventh inning, Sara Kardos connected on an RBI-double to deep centerfield to get Tates Creek within one run.
The drama lasted until the very end, as the Commodores loaded the bases with two outs. But Brooke Hill’s throw to first just beat Brynna Hill to the bag after a grounder, and the Commodores topped the Bulldogs for the first time in three tries this season, sending them to Wednesday’s championship game.
Tates Creek head coach Gary Preece was impressed by the resolve his team showed in the loss.
“I am so proud of these kids and what they’ve accomplished,” he said. “We won 20 games for the first time since 2005. And the thing I’m so proud of with these kids is in the seventh inning we didn’t just go lay down, we fought. Those kids showed a lot of heart and the future is bright for Tates Creek.
Conley, Scheweighart (7) and Judy; L. Kluesner and Souels. 2B—TC: Kardos, Williams; PD: Arnold. 3B—TC: Whitson, Souels.
Records—Paul Dunbar 10-12, Tates Creek 20-15.
Josh Sullivan; 859-231-3225 Twitter: @sullyjosh
43rd District softball finals at Lexington Catholic
7 p.m.: Paul Laurence Dunbar vs. Lexington Christian-Lafayette winner