• Rick Capone, Sports Editor

WCHS to play for 11th Region championship

MORGAN GROSE was one of the key players that helped the Woodford County High School softball team reach the championship game against Scott County in the Region 11 softball tournament, which was played at Madison Central, Monday through Wednesday, May 30 to June 1. Grose had a number of key hits in Woodford’s first two wins – 7-0 over Henry Clay on Monday and 3-0 over Madison Central on Tuesday. (Photo by Rick Capone)

BETHANY TODD was one of the key players that helped the Woodford County High School softball team reach the championship game against Scott County in the Region 11 softball tournament, which was played at Madison Central, Monday through Wednesday, May 30 to June 1. Todd pitched strong in the Lady Jackets two games, the first against Henry Clay, a 7-0 win on Monday, and the second, a 3-0 win over Madison Central in the semifinals on Tuesday. (Photo by Rick Capone)

With two wins in the 11th Region Softball Tournament, the first a 7-0 win over Henry Clay on Monday, May 30, and the second a 3-0 win over Madison Central on Tuesday, May 31, the Woodford County High School softball team is just one win away from achieving its goal of reaching the KHSAA State Championships. Standing in their way is Scott County, who they were scheduled to face on Wednesday, June 1, in the 11th Region championship game. The Lady Cardinals have been the Lady Jackets’ nemesis the last four seasons, as they have ended Woodford’s season in the region tournament in 2012, 2013, 2014 and 2015; twice (2013 and 2015) in the championship game. Results of the region championship game between Woodford and Scott County were not available at press time, but will appear in next week’s Woodford Sun. With a win in that game, Woodford would advance to the KHSAA State Championships, which are scheduled for Thursday through Saturday, June 9 to 11, in Owensboro. Preceding those two region tournament games, Woodford won its second consecutive 41st District championship with a 14-0, five-inning, mercy-rule win over Franklin County at home on Wednesday, May 25. “This team is really tough,” said Woodford head coach Sasha Turansky of her teams district title win. “They have the ability to make other teams sort of give up in games. They know how to handle business, particularly in big time situations. Hosting the district and being the team with a target on your back is a big time moment. They handled it really well. We’re in a good position to have a chance to win the region.” In Woodford’s win over Madison Central on Tuesday in the Region 11 tournament, which were hosted by Madison Central in Richmond, junior Bethany Todd pitched seven solid innings, while the Woodford offense and defense played strong behind her to capture a 3-0 win and a chance at playing for the region title game. “That was a really tough game,” said Turansky. “That’s a really tough, tough team (Madison Central) that gave us everything they had. We knew going in that would be the case, playing here (on) their home turf with their home crowd. They’ve had a great season. So, to come out and get that win against them really is a huge momentum burst going into tomorrow’s (championship game).” Things got off to a bit of a bumpy start in the top of the first inning for Woodford. After loading the bases with only one out, Madison Central was able to get two quick outs to end the inning and strand the Lady Jackets’ runners on base. Then in the top of the first, Todd got called for an illegal pitch early, which shook her and her teammates up a little. “After a call like that, you have to get yourself together,” said Todd. “With me, I get wound up easy. I get distracted. So, to get myself back together, (I need) to pitch really good for the next pitches.” Todd did just that, as she refocused and ended the inning soon after, while leaving one Lady Indian runner stranded on base. “We’ve had illegal pitches called every now and then throughout the year,” said Turansky. “Sometimes she (Todd) does pick that foot up a little bit. The first time they call it, she checks herself and she moves on throughout the day. “She’s one of the toughest kids around,” continued Turansky. “She knows that every time she pitches, she’s going to get everybody’s best shot. You know, they see us coming off the bus, (and) they see her. You can’t miss her, she’s 6-1. They know her and they know she’s going to UK. They know that we’ve got the offense and defense to back it up. So, they try even harder to hit her. So, it was really important for her to stay focused and keep doing what she did. And, she got stronger as the game went on.” Neither team scored in the second inning, but Woodford got things rolling in the top of the third inning and put two runs on the scoreboard. Senior Morgan Gross led off the inning with a double to the left-center field fence. Junior Kyla Simpson followed that with a single down the first-base line, which advanced Gross to third. Junior Ariel Dailey then hit a grounder to the shortstop, who threw it home, and in a very close call that was argued for almost five minutes, Gross was called out. Freshman Paige Hampton then hit a ground ball single to left field to load the bass with Simpson on third and Dailey on second. Eighth-grader Kasey Abel came in as a courtesy runner for Hampton on first. Next up, junior Caitlin Karo hit a fly ball to right field, which scored Simpson and gave Woodford a 1-0 lead. Then, on the same play, Karo got caught in a run-down, which allowed Dailey to score for a 2-0 Woodford lead, and left Karo on second base. Madison Central ended the inning shortly after. Madison Central was not able to mount much offense in the next two innings, as Todd’s pitching got stronger, as did the Woodford defense. However, Woodford’s offense was unable to score as well. But then in the fifth inning, Woodford scored its third run of the game. The inning began with Simpson hitting a single to center field, then advancing to second on a single by Hampton to center field. That was followed by Karo being walked to load the bases. Next up was senior Lindsay Anderson who was hit by a pitch to score Simpson for the 3-0 lead and reload the bases. Madison Central got the next two Woodford batters out to end the inning, but the Lady Indians still could not mount much offense against Todd and the Woodford defense in the bottom of the fifth, and Woodford held on to a 3-0 lead. Madison Central then got Woodford out in order in the top of the sixth, and then with one out in the bottom of the sixth, a Lady Indian hit a deep ball towards the left-center field fence that looked like it just might be a home run. However, Simpson ran the ball down and made a great catch – a “game saving” catch, according to Turansky – to prevent a Madison Central score. “I was nervous that it was going to be a home run,” said Simpson. “So, I just kind of went for it, and I caught it. I just didn’t really think about what was going on. I was just in the moment kind of thing.” Added Turansky, “It was a game changer. That was their home run hitter. And, (if) she gets up and she puts one out right here; that’s a 3-1 ball game… And, Kyla goes in the gap and catches that and just totally changes the momentum of the game. You know, you’re kind of up, up, up and then, ohhhh (watching the play). … So, it was huge for us.” Woodford was unable to score in the seventh inning, then got three quick outs in the bottom of the seventh – a strikeout by Todd, an easy ground ball to shortstop that senior Caitlin Ferguson threw to first, and a line drive towards second base that was caught by sophomore Peyton Rose, who ran it down and made a nice, jumping backhand catch – ended the game and put Woodford into the championship game against Scott County. “This team is tough,” said Turansky. “Today, the team really had a chance to falter and really just roll over and die in that first inning. And, we didn’t do that. We just got tougher and tougher and tougher, and that’s what I think is really going to help us tomorrow (in the championship game).”

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