• Rick Capone, Sports Editor

WCHS softball team poised for a great season

BETHANY TODD will be one of the players to watch on this year’s Woodford County High School softball team, as she will lead one of the strongest pitching squads in the state. (Photo by Rick Capone)

The Woodford County High School softball team is ready to take on the 2016 season, with the goal of reaching the state championship tournament that eluded the team last year when it lost 3-0 to Scott County in the 11th Region championship game. This year, while Woodford lost four seniors in Kaitlyn Coleman, Brooke Corum, Mandy Head and Keely Moussette, the team is still loaded with talent from the top of the roster to the bottom of the roster, and third-year head coach Sasha Turansky believes the Lady Jackets are poised to have a great season. “Even after graduating four very important seniors, we remain extremely talented with a lot of depth at each position,” said Turansky. “We have the best pitching staff in the state and we should break a few state records this year offensively as well. “On the team this year we currently have five kids who have committed to play Division I college softball. In the state of Kentucky, to have that many (Division I) kids on a team is unbelievable. We are very talented and are ready to take the next step. We’ve been working hard at practice and trying to improve our toughness. If we can stay healthy and focused I think we are in a position to have a special season.” In 2015, Woodford had one of the best seasons in the team’s history. The team finished with a 33-4-1 overall record, an 18-1 region record and a 9-0 district record. In the district tournament, which was played at Western Hills, Woodford defeated Frankfort 15-0 in a three-inning, mercy-rule win in its first game. Then, in a very exciting game, they defeated Western Hills 1-0 in the championship game to win the district title. Next came the region tournament, which was played at Dunbar. There, Woodford defeated Henry Clay 10-1 in its opening game, and followed that with a 4-0 win over Madison Central to advance to the championship game. In that game, the team lost to Scott County 3-0 to end its season one game short of making it to the state tournament. This year, Woodford wants to take that “next step” and make it to the state tournament. To do that, one of the team’s first goals is to defend its 41st District title. But, the Lady Jackets will have to face some strong district opponents. “Western Hills always plays us competitively,” said Turansky. “Coach (Tracy) Spickard at Franklin County always gets her girls ready to play. Our district is very competitive, especially at tournament time.” After that, the team will have to get through a tough 11th Region tournament to reach its ultimate goal, and, as usual, the region is loaded with talented teams. While Scott County is usually the team to beat, Turansky does not count out some of the other teams. “I never count out the 44th district, Madison Central or Madison Southern,” she said. “And then, (in) any given year, a Lexington school can contend.” Ultimately, though, Woodford will most probably need to beat the team that has become its biggest rival, Scott County, somewhere along the way. The Lady Cardinals have defeated Woodford in the region tournament the last four years in a row. Two of those wins came in the region championship game: in 2015, Woodford lost to Scott County 3-0, and in 2013, Woodford lost 4-1. Woodford’s other two losses to Scott County in the region tournament came in 2014, when it lost 4-1 in the opening round; and in 2012, when it lost 11-2 in the second round. So, what will it take to defeat Scott County? “I think part of the problems we’ve had in the past with Scott County in the region tournament are due to the fact we want it so bad,” said Turansky. “We find ourselves in tough situations and we feel the pressure of playing the perfect game to beat them. “Then, sometimes there are outside circumstances, such as calls that don’t go our way, injuries, etc. Last year we got in a tough spot where the weather the night before pushed our game back to a 9:30 p.m. start. I don’t think physical fatigue was as much a factor as much as mental fatigue. “We’re focusing this year on working harder and being tougher than anybody else in the state. I think if we can stay that course, it gives us a good chance to beat anybody.” The Lady Jackets will play Scott County in their season opener at home on March 22 at 6 p.m. As to the team’s makeup this season, it all starts with pitching, and Woodford has five players on its staff that can get the job done. The team’s top pitchers are juniors Bethany Todd and Caitlin Karo. In addition, junior Kyla Simpson, freshman Leea Cole and eighth-grader Kelsey Coleman will also see some time in the circle. Behind the plate, four players are working to get the spot, starting with returning junior Marly Maristany, as well as sophomores Paige Hampton and Audrey Gilbert, and eighth-grader Kasey Abel. At first base, Turansky has a number of players to choose from in Karo, junior Ariel Dailey and eighth-grader Delaney Enlow. At second base, senior Lindsay Anderson returns and will most likely get the start. Backing her up will be sophomore Peyton Rose, Maristany and Gilbert. At shortstop will be starter Caitlin Ferguson, with Coleman and Abel backing her up, while at third base, three players are vying for the position: Dailey, Rose and freshman Emily Hestand. There are a number of players who will see time in the outfield. To start, senior Kirsten Eads will be in left field, junior Kyla Simpson will be in centerfield and senior Morgan Grose will be in right field. Backing up those three will be Rose, Cole, eighth-grader Abby Moffett, sophomore Chay Hayes, and freshman Lexi Braswell. The team’s designated hitters will be Hestand and Dailey, with Todd getting the call at times as well. Woodford opens the season with two home games. As mentioned, the first is against Scott County on March 22 at 6 p.m., and the second is a district game against Frankfort on March 24 at 5:30 p.m.

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