• Rick Capone, Sports Editor

Caitlin Karo pitches perfect game in win over Ashland

It was a four-game stretch of strong pitching by the Woodford County High School softball team that will be remembered for a long, long time. It began with junior Kyla Simpson pitching a no-hitter in the first game of a double header against district opponent Frankfort on Thursday, April 28, which Woodford won 15-0 in a three-inning, mercy-rule victory. It ended with junior Caitlin Karo pitching a perfect game – four strike outs, no hits, no walks, no hit batters, no… nothing – in a six-inning, 8-0 win over Ashland Blazer in the Beasts of the East tournament hosted by Woodford on Friday, April 29. All told, Woodford won four games, three by mercy-rule. Here’s a wrap up of the games, starting with Karo’s perfect game. After being injured most of last year, Karo has come back and been working very hard to improve her pitching and her play at first base all season long. The hard work paid off at home in the circle on Friday, as she pitched a perfect game to lead the Lady Jackets to a 8-0 six-inning win over Ashland Blazer in the Beat of the East softball tournament. The junior finished the game with four strikeouts, no walks and no hit batters. Pitching a perfect game in softball is rare and is a great accomplishment. However, the junior deflected praise and was quick to credit her teammates for their help in achieving the win, while also staying focused on the team’s ultimate goals this season. “I am very proud of my accomplishment,” said Karo. “We have a lot of games left in the season. To meet our goals of winning district, region and going to state, I have to stay focused on the next game. Throwing a perfect game is rare in softball. Although the pitcher gets the credit for the perfect game, the defense helped me with this accomplishment. Also I had a ton of support from my coaches and the fans.” During the game, Karo didn’t let the pressure get to her as each inning passed. She just stayed calm, pitched her normal game and stayed focused throughout. “I was just playing the game inning by inning,” she said. “I was very determined to win. My mindset was the exact same as any other game.” Woodford head coach Sasha Turansky was very pleased with her pitcher’s efforts, especially coming against a perennial top 25 team. “Ashland is a very good team,” she said. “They finished third or fourth in the state tournament last year and are a top-25 team again this year. CK threw really well in this game. I honestly didn’t know it was a perfect game until after the game, which is cool. She did what she always does; throw tons of ground balls and let the defense work. It’s great to have her healthy again. “Offensively, their (Ashland’s) pitcher threw a lot of rise balls and we were able to lay off them and hit strikes. About the second or third inning our bats really came alive and we started hitting balls all over the field.” The win over Ashland capped a two-day, four-game stretch in which the Lady Jackets won all of their games by shutouts and three by mercy-rule victories. That stretch of games began on Thursday, April 28, with a double-header against district opponent Frankfort. Woodford took both games with identical 15-0, three-inning, mercy-rule wins, which kept the Lady Jackets undefeated in district play. Then on Friday, Woodford hosted their annual Beasts of the East tournament. In the opener, the Lady Jackets defeated Lafayette 11-1 in five innings, and then in the nightcap, Karo and her teammates defeated Ashland Blazer. In the game against Lafayette, Simpson got the start and was able to keep the Lady Generals in check, thanks to the help she got from her teammates. “Kyla threw against Lafayette,” said Turansky. “She did a great job keeping them off balance with her off speed and cutter. We played really nice defense behind her and were seeing the ball really well at the plate.” With those games complete, Woodford is now 16-2 overall, 7-2 in the region and 4-0 in the district. In Woodford’s games against Frankfort, Turansky played her regular starters in the first game and then gave some of her younger players playing time in the second game. In the opening game of the doubleheader, Simpson got the start and pitched a gem, finishing with a no-hitter in a 15-0, three-inning, mercy rule win. She had four strike outs, while only giving up one walk. In fact, she was one pitch away from a perfect game when, on a 3-2 count, she gave up the walk. “Kyla threw really well in this game,” said Turansky. “We were able to score multiple runs in an inning and put the game away quickly.” In the top of the first, Simpson got the Lady Panthers out in order. Then, in the bottom of the first, Woodford got things going and put four runs on the score board. With junior Ariel Dailey on first base, senior Morgan Grose hit a fly ball to left field, which was dropped by the Frankfort outfielder. That allowed Dailey to score for the 1-0 Woodford lead and put Grose on third base safely. Senior Caitlin Ferguson then hit a double to the left field fence, which scored Grose and gave Woodford a 2-0 lead. Next, with Simpson at the plate, Ferguson stole second, and then scored on a single by Simpson to make it a 3-0 ball game. Simpson then stole second and then third with sophomore Paige Hampton at bat. Hampton was eventually walked, and freshman Leea Cole came in as a courtesy runner. That play was followed by senior Kristen Eads getting to first on a bunt, which allowed Simpson to score and give Woodford a 4-0 lead, which is how the inning ended two batters later. After getting Frankfort out in order in the top of the second, Woodford put three more runs on the score board in the bottom of the second. With Dailey at second base following a walk and a stolen base, Grose hit a fly ball to left field that advanced Dailey to third and put Grose on second. A wild pitch to Ferguson scored Dailey, and another wild pitch, this one to Simpson, scored Grose to give the Lady Jackets a 6-0 lead. Simpson then hit a triple to the center field fence, and then scored on a wild pitch to Hampton to make it a 7-0 game at the end of the second. In the top of the third inning, Simpson got Frankfort out in order once again, and then Woodford shut the door with eight more runs in the bottom of the third to end the game. In the second game against Frankfort, eighth-grader Kelsey Coleman got the start and, with help from a number of the younger Woodford players, who got a chance to get some playing time, got the 15-0, three-inning, mercy-rule win. “This was Kelsey’s first varsity start,” said Turansky. “As an eighth-grader that’s really huge for her. “This was (also) an opportunity for us to rest some regular varsity starters and let the younger kids play. The defense played well behind her and we were able to score on them in a hurry.” In the bottom of the first inning, Coleman got Frankfort out in order. Then in the bottom of the first, Woodford scored two runs to take a 2-0 lead in the game. The first run came after junior Peyton Rose reached first on a blooper to the second-baseman who dropped the ball. Cole then outran a bunt for a single that advanced Rose to second. With Rose on second and Cole on first, Coleman blasted a ball to the outfield for a double, which scored Rose and Cole for a 2-0 lead. Frankfort was able to get some runners on base in the second inning, but the Woodford defense shut the Lady Panthers down to end the inning. Woodford then scored eight runs in their half of the second inning to take a 10-0 lead. It began when freshman Lexi Braswell got to first after being hit with a pitch. Rose then put down a perfect bunt for a single, which advanced Braswell to second. Then with Cole at the plate, Braswell and Rose stole third and second respectively. Cole was then walked to load the bases. Next up was Coleman, who hit a ball to the shortstop, who overthrew the catcher to allow Braswell and Rose to score and give Woodford a 4-0 lead. The play also advanced Cole to third, and left Coleman at first. A wild pitch to Enlow allowed Cole to score to make it 5-0 ball game, which was followed by Enlow hitting a single to the outfield, which scored Coleman for a 6-0 lead. Then with junior Bethany Todd at the plate, Enlow stole second and then scored on a double by Todd to the left field fence, which gave Woodford a 7-0 lead, and forced Frankfort to put in a new pitcher. With freshman Emily Hestand at the plate, Todd stole third on a dropped ball by the Lady Panthers’ catcher. Hestand was then walked. Junior Marly Maristany was Woodford’s next batter, and Hestand stole second. Maristany then hit a sacrifice fly to center field, which allowed Todd to score to give the Lady Jackets an 8-0 lead. Eighth-grader Abby Moffett then hit a grounder past the shortstop and into left field, which scored Maristany and gave Woodford a 9-0 lead and let Moffett reach third safely. Woodford got its final score of the inning when a wild pitch to sophomore Chay Hayes scored Moffett and gave the Lady Jackets a 10-0 lead at the end of the second. After Coleman got Frankfort out in the top of the third, Woodford scored five more runs in the bottom of the third to end the game with the 15-0, mercy-rule win.

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