Going out with a bang
Woodford County High School softball Coach Les Anderson has been successful since day one. “It’s incredible, obviously,” said Anderson. “I’ve been the head coach at Woodford County for three years. We’ve been in the (region) championship three times.” For the second time in three years, Woodford has won that very championship game and advanced to state tournament play. The Yellow Jackets’ 12-3 win over Madison Southern Wednesday, May 29 was a total team effort. Offense, defense, pitching, base running, and coaching were all on display at Tates Creek High School last week. “I think we played the best we could play,” said junior power hitter Delaney Enlow. Enlow was one of three Jackets to hit a three-run home run in the win. Her homer would be the last of the evening following senior Emily Hestand in the third inning and junior Kelsey Coleman moments earlier in an explosive fifth inning. The night began rocky for the Jackets as they fell behind 1-0 in the first inning. Two uncharacteristic throwing errors allowed an unearned run to come across for Madison Southern. From that point on, the Yellow Jacket defense would refocus and play well behind sophomore pitcher Claire Lehmkuhler. Woodford would immediately respond in the bottom of the first. Senior Leea Cole, the eventual MVP of the 11th Region Tournament, began the inning with a slap single. She advanced to second on a wild pitch to put the tying run in scoring position. Meanwhile, Enlow waited in the on-deck circle and Coach Anderson could be overheard making jokes with his hard-swinging infielder. “You’re killing me,” he said, joking about Enlow’s flat responses. Keeping the moment light and free of pressure, he mocked Enlow’s unexcited tone by saying, “I guess I’ll hit it a long way.” He was a few innings early in his forecast, as Enlow would take the free pass to first on a walk moments later. After an Abby Moffett deep fly ball allowed both Cole and Enlow to advance, junior shortstop Taylor Sallee benefitted from an error by the Southern second baseman, scoring Cole. Lehmkuhler would then help her own cause and give the Jackets the lead, singling to left field to score Enlow. Madison Southern went down quickly in the top of the second before Woodford added an insurance run in the bottom of the second. Abel smacked a single to left field to score seventh grader Jocelynn Edwards. Southern would soon earn a run back in the third inning, thanks to three singles from the top of their lineup. The bottom of the third inning was when the Yellow Jacket bats began to show some pop. Taylor Sallee walked and Lehmkuhler reached on an infield single to start the inning. When Emily Hestand came up, she turned around a pitch and belted it to center field, extending the Jacket lead to 6-2. Lehmkuhler would pitch her fourth and final inning of the evening, surrendering a home run that gave the Lady Eagles their last run of the night. After that, things turned over to Jocelynn Edwards, who was stunning in three innings of relief work. Edwards got some help in the fifth on a tremendous diving catch by Sallee, who dove to her left and landed on the second base bag to make a spectacular catch for the second out. In the sixth, Edwards came one pitch away from an immaculate inning (three strikeouts on nine pitches), striking out the side with just 10 pitches. She would finish the game without allowing any hint of a seventh inning rally. Edwards final line was impressive for any pitcher, but for one in middle school it was simply mind-boggling. Three innings pitched, five strikeouts, no hits or walks allowed, and just 33 pitches. That was all it took for the seventh grader to get the final nine outs of a region championship. “The first inning was pretty stressful,” Edwards said, “but once we got two outs, I knew we could get through it.” Edwards’ job in the circle was of course made easier by a firework filled fifth inning. Sallee and Hestand reached base ahead of Coleman, who promptly crushed a pitch over the center field wall to extend the lead to 9-3. Cole and Abel would reach once again, enabling Enlow to make her impact on the game with another dinger to center field and put the final margin at 12-3. “The bats were awake tonight. Enlow, Hestand, Coleman … we were just on fire,” said Coach Anderson. “This team really feeds off of its bats.” The deciders of the All-Region team clearly felt that way as well, rewarding Enlow and Abby Moffett both with a place on the 11th Region’s all-region honors. Lehmkuhler also earned a nod for the All-Region team, both for her pitching and hitting efforts throughout the year. Leea Cole’s tournament MVP performance was well earned. As the leadoff hitter, Cole went eight for twelve at the plate with five stolen bases, four runs scored, and a walk. The contact and speed threat set the table for the offense time and again, and consistently impressed with the glove over the course of the three games. Without her efforts in the opening round game against Madison Central, the Jackets might have lost on Memorial Day. In the moments following the game and the award ceremony, Anderson addressed the team with a determination in his voice. “I’m not done, are you done? I’m not done. We’ve got to work. We’ve got to press. We’ve got to focus. We’ve got to concentrate. I’m not done … Let’s win this son of a gun, right now. Let’s win it. Let’s do it!” The Lady Yellow Jackets then played Boyle County in the semi-state round of the KHSAA State Softball Tournament.