• Rick Capone, Sports Editor

11th Region Champions

WCHS softball defeat Scott County 1-0 to win region and advance to state

The 11th Region championship and a place in the KHSAA State Softball championships came down to the two softball titans in the region. On one side was Scott County, the defending state champions who have defeated the Woodford County High School softball team three out of the last four years in the region tournament – three times in the championship game. On the other side was Woodford County, a team that has been knocking on the door of a region championship the last few years only to see its seasons end at the hands of the Lady Cardinals. Well, this year was different, as the Lady Jackets’ time had finally come. Backed by a gutsy performance by senior pitcher Bethany Todd, and a booming home run by freshman Delaney Enlow, Woodford defeated Scott County 1-0 to claim its first 11th Region title since 2006 and advance to the KHSAA State Softball championship series.

Note: The KHSAA State Softball Championships will be held Thursday to Saturday, June 8 to 10, at Jack C. Fisher Park in Owensboro. Woodford’s first game is tonight, Thursday, against Mercy on the red field at 7 p.m. Woodford returned to Lakeview Park in Frankfort on Monday, May 29, the site of its third straight 41st District title victory on Friday, May 26, to begin play in the 11th Region tournament and a chance to go to the KHSAA State Championship. The Lady Jackets opened play in the region tournament on Monday against Tates Creek and defeated the Lady Commodores 12-0 in a five-inning, mercy-rule victory. Then in the second game on Tuesday, May 30, they faced a good Madison Central team and defeated them 11-1 in a six-inning, mercy-rule victory. With that win, Woodford advanced to the 11th Region championship game on Wednesday, May 31, where they faced Scott County, a team that had already defeated them twice this season – 7-0 on March 25 and 5-3 on April 27.

The Lady Cardinals earned their spot in the region championship with a 10-0 six-inning, mercy-rule victory over Berea on Monday, and a hard-fought 6-2 win over Lafayette on Tuesday. The Lady Cardinals have been Woodford’s biggest rival for a while now, as they have ended the Lady Jackets seasons the last five years. In 2016, Woodford lost to Scott County 4-1 in the region championship, and in 2015, Woodford lost to Scott County 3-0 in the region championship. In 2014, Scott County beat Woodford 2-1 in the first round of the region tournament. Then in 2013, Woodford lost 4-1 to Scott County in the region championship game, while in 2012 the Lady Jackets lost to the Lady Cardinals 11-2 in the second round of the region tournament. But this year, 2017, things were a little different. It began at the top, as the Lady Jackets had a new head coach in Les Anderson, one of the most experienced softball coaches in Woodford County. He has also coached many of the players on the team throughout their careers, starting when they were very young in junior ball. In the circle, Woodford has two of the best pitchers in the state in seniors Bethany Todd, who will be playing for the University of Lexington next year, and Caitlin Karo, who will be playing for the University of Tennessee-Martin next year. In the field, the team had a solid line-up of players for the championship game that has backed up its pitchers with strong play all year long. In the infield, Karo was at first base, senior Ariel Dailey, who will be playing for Louisiana Tech next year, was at second; junior Peyton Rose, who replaced Caitlin Ferguson who graduated last season and is currently playing at the University of Louisville, was at shortstop; and at third was freshman Kasey Abel. In the outfield, three players have been there all year. In center field was freshman Abby Moffett, while in right field was freshman Kelsey Coleman and in left field was senior Kyla Simpson. In addition, offensively, all of those players, as well as the non-starters in the dugout, are solid hitters. All of them were ready to face the challenge of playing Scott County for the region title. As the game began, as expected, both teams’ pitchers – Todd for Woodford and Kennedy Sullivan for Scott County – were ready and came out throwing hard and accurate. Woodford, as the visiting team, was put down in order in the top of the first by Sullivan, while Todd shut down the Lady Cardinals with two strikeouts and a routine play off a ground ball to second base. The game remained scoreless through the next four innings, and while the pitchers stayed in control of the game, both teams managed to get some players on base. However, none scored. As play got deeper into the game, it looked more and more like one run might be the difference in the game. Whichever team got a break, it would be the winner.

Well, that break came for Woodford in the top of the sixth inning, as Enlow stepped to the plate. Her at-bat started slowly, as she got down in the count, 0-2. But, she kept her focus, remained calm, and did the things her coaches had been telling her to do. According to Anderson, he had been teaching Enlow to square up and get the barrel through; just let the barrel get to (the ball) and let the velocity of the pitch carry the ball. With those thoughts in mind, Enlow battled back to even the count, 2-2. And then she squared up and hit a booming solo home run over the center field fence to give the Lady Jackets a 1-0 lead in the game. As she rounded third base to head for home, all of her teammates were at the plate waiting to greet her, while the cheers from the players and the crowd was almost deafening. After the game, she talked about her home run. “I was down in the count, and that was really just anxious for me because I’ve been working on getting better at playing through the count. So, when I hit that, I did exactly what my coaches asked of me – stop to contact. And, when it went out, I just felt like so relieved and so excited that I helped my team win this game.” Added Anderson, “She’s on the brink of being the best power hitter in the state of Kentucky. If you count (her) varsity and JV home runs, she’s at 17 right now. Believe it or not, but that was probably a 240-foot shot. I’ve seen her hit them farther than that. … She just has some real talent and some real ability.” So, with a 1-0 lead, Woodford still had to get Scott County out two more times. And, that’s what they did. In the bottom of the sixth, while one runner made it to first, Todd and the defense took care of business as they got out of the inning on two routine infield plays and a strikeout. In the top of the seventh, Woodford went down in order on three strikeouts. All that was left to do was to get Scott County out. As Woodford took the field, Todd, who had been nursing stiffness in her back all game long, was not 100 percent as she got to the circle. But, she dug down deep inside and found the strength to get the job done. “Bethany Todd is one of the most bull-doggish, determined, players I’ve ever coached,” said Anderson. “I mean, she wants to win every pitch. She isn’t satisfied with anything except coming out on top. … Everybody could see how much pain (Todd) was in tonight. She did not let that impact her. She just gritted her teeth, she found another gear and she did what we needed her to do to get us the win. … Bethany just refuses to lose.” Last year in the region championship game, Todd got the start, but came out of the game after Scott County scored some runs. On that day, Todd did not have that “killer instinct” in the big game. Then during the summer with her travel team, which was coached by Anderson, she pitched in a national championship game, and according to Anderson, you could see, inning by inning, she had found that next level within herself to be able to pitch strong in big games. What she learned that day paid off in the bottom of the seventh inning against Scott County. “It’s a totally different game with the pressure, and just the fans screaming and yelling,” said Todd. “That game showed me how to work through that and I think that really helped tonight.” Seemingly throwing even harder than she had done to that point in the game, she struck out the first batter. The second batter hit a pop-up down the third base line, which was caught by Rose. In the Woodford dugout, the intensity increased 10-fold as the win got closer than ever before over the last few years. “It was so tense,” said Enlow. “We were all screaming and yelling in the dugout. Especially that last out with Bethany and it was going so long. We were cheering her on. I don’t think I’ve screamed any louder. It was the most tense thing. I never stopped jumping. It was fun to play through.” The third Scott County batter did her best to keep the game going, as she hit what must have been a dozen foul tips with two strikes against her. But, then she hit a short foul tip that was caught to end the game. After that, bedlam ensued, as the players in the Woodford dugout ran onto the field to greet the players on the field and begin the celebration, while the fans in the stands cheered as well. For Todd, the win was a big relief. Not only had she finally beaten Scott County for her team, but she had been able to pitch a big game and get a win. “There’s no words to describe it,” she said of the win. “It feels amazing. We’ve worked so hard to come here, to be here right now.” After the trophies were handed out and photos of the team taken, and after Anderson managed to dodge the water bucket the players tried to pour over him, he talked about the win. “Well, you know, obviously, we wanted this game,” said Anderson. “You can’t win the state without beating Scott County. That’s just the fact. That (Scott County) is an incredibly talented, very well-coached team. It was a great game tonight. It was destined from the first pitch to be whoever caught a break and we happened to catch a pitch that we could barrel up, and Delaney barreled it up. We made some plays and we’ve accomplished our first step.” One of the things Anderson had said going into the game against Scott County is that his team had to play perfect and not make any mistakes. “It’s what we talked about since the last time we played Scott County, every time we play them, we help them win the game by committing errors. Whether we’re pitching and throwing it down the middle, or just bobbling a ball or swinging at balls, or something, our history against them has been we have helped them beat us. Our whole focus has been to not beat ourselves; to give ourselves a chance to win. And that’s the game we played. (We) had to play a perfect game. And we played a perfect game. We’ve had several really good games (this year), but this game in particular, we had to play clean. We had to play loose. We had to play relaxed. We had to play ready. And, we were.” With their region title in the books, Woodford now heads to the state championships. “Our goal from Jan. 1, from the time we started working, was state,” said Anderson. “Not getting to state; winning state. This (the region win) is our first step. It was a huge hurdle. We did what was necessary. We caught a break and now the rest of it’s up to us. We’ve got to prepare hard. We’ve got to get ready. We’ve got to be at the right mindset. And, when we get there on Thursday, our goal… honestly, our goal …from the time they were all 10-years old, was to win state. “We finally got over the huge obstacle of Scott County. Now, we have to prepare harder than we prepared (for this game against Scott County). We have to get ready. We have to be ready.” On the t-shirts the Woodford players put on after the game were two things. On the back was the word OPUS, which is Latin for work. On the front was Veni, Vedi Vici, which is a Latin phrase used by Julius Caesar that means “I came, I saw, I conquered.” “The girls have busted their butt,” said Anderson. “They’ve listened. They play an intelligent game and they’re work paid off. So, we’ve got to keep going and, hopefully, we’ll make a great run.” Added Todd about her team’s season, “It’s not over yet. Our goal is the trophy from state. So, it’s not over yet.”

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