Lady Charger softball claims top district seed

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By Mike Farner

    HEBRON ESTATES - An old-fashioned pitchers’ duel that saw just ten hits combined, showed just how close the top teams are this season in 24th District softball play.

    When the dust had finally settled on a blustery spring day Thursday, it was Bullitt East sitting atop the regular season standings after slipping past North Bullitt 2-1 in what has become the most heated rivalry in area softball circles.

    The winning run didn’t come on a big hit, but instead scored in the top of the fourth inning when Bullitt East lead-off hitter LaVella Hall was hit by a pitch with the bases loaded, scoring Erin Manns who had earlier reached base when hit by a pitch. North Bullitt pitcher Erin Cox hit just three batters in the game.

    Getting the top seed for the upcoming 24th District tournament which will be played at Bullitt Central the week of May 24, was a goal for the Lady Chargers from the beginning of the season. Still, first-year head coach Ricky Hoffman is well aware that the top four teams in the district have all played at least one, one-run game against one of the others.

    “That was our first goal, to sweep the district and get the number one seed,” Hoffman said over the weekend. “I know it will be a tough tournament.”

    North Bullitt will have the number two seed and will face Southern in the first round. Bullitt Central is in the number four spot and will play Fairdale in the first-round game with the winner facing Bullitt East.

    “We’ve all played each other pretty close,” Hoffman said, remembering one-run wins over North Bullitt and Southern. “It should make for a good and exciting tournament.”

    Hoffman loved the intensity of facing North Bullitt.

    “That was my first example with North Bullitt and that rivalry game,” the coach said. “I’d rather have a game like that one than a blow-out. It was a good game for the fans. It was fun to play in that atmosphere.”

    Bullitt East sophomore pitcher Jamie Lutes allowed just four hits and only two Lady Eagles reached second base. Lutes walked only one batter and recorded only one strike-out.

    “Jamie is pitching very well and seems to be getting stronger,” Hoffman said. “She played basketball so she got a late start with softball and that might be a plus now.”

    North Bullitt head coach Eric Lambert was frustrated with his team collecting only four hits, one of which was a third inning home run off the bat of number nine hitter Kayla Middleton in the bottom of the third inning.

    “We got underneath the ball a little bit and popped it up,” the coach lamented later. “The hard hits we had went straight at their players.”

    Cox allowed six hits and walked four in addition to hitting three batters. But, she continually worked out of jams as Bullitt East left six runners on base in scoring position.

    “I was impressed with Erin,” Lambert said. “I knew she got a little frustrated with the strike zone. She gutted it out and gave the offense a chance and they didn’t come through.”

    Bullitt East opened the game with a run in the first inning. Hall started the game with a single and then after an out, Rachel Simms hit into a fielder’s choice. Clean-up hitter Kirsten Price then laced a shot to the fence that allowed Simms to score all the way from first. Price was out trying to stretch the hit into a triple.

    North Bullitt did not have a base runner until Middleton’s home run with two outs in the bottom of the third frame. The ball clipped the top of the fence, giving the senior her first home run of the season.

    Bullitt East then moved back ahead in the top of the next frame. Jenna Simms opened the inning with a double and then Manns was hit by a pitch. After an out, Brook Hammons singled to load the bases.

    Kaylee McClure followed with a ground ball to second baseman Jordan Vorbrink and she came up throwing home to force Simms at the plate. That brought Hall to the plate and on the third pitch she was hit squarely in the back by Cox’s pitch, forcing in the go-ahead run.

    Bullitt East finished with six hits in the game including the doubles by Price and Jenna Simms. Hall collected a pair of singles.

    This was the only regular season meeting between the two rivals. Bullitt East finished the week 20-5 while North Bullitt is 10-3.

East Beats Southern

    The big showdown game almost didn’t happen as the day before it took Bullitt East eight innings to subdue Southern 1-0. The game had been rained out the day before, but the teams were able to play 24-hours later.

    Lutes was nearly unhittable as Southern had just three hits. The Lady Trojans did load the bases in the bottom of the eighth inning before Hall caught the third out at shortstop.

    The Lady Chargers, who had just two hits through the first seven innings, had two outs in the eighth inning when Rachel Simms drove a ball deep to right field that bounced out of the glove of the outfielder at the fence. After a walk to Price, Jenna Simms doubled and there was no play at the plate.

    This was the third meeting of the season between the district rivals. Bullitt East had beaten Southern twice in a spring break tournament by 5-0 and 4-3 scores.

    “We left eight on base and most of those were in scoring position,” Hoffman said. “We didn’t have the timely hits.”

    Two of the four hits for the red and gold came off the bat of Taylor Price including a triple.

    Before playing Southern, the Lady Chargers bombed Beth Haven 16-1 in a game stopped after three innings.

    Lutes was the winning pitcher as she allowed only two hits and the run was unearned.

    Bullitt East finished with nine hits including a home run by Manns and a triple by Taylor Price who collected three hit and drove in three runners. Lutes collected two hits.

NB Outlasts Henry

    After being rained out of a tournament the week before at Henry County, North Bullitt managed to get its field ready after a rainy weekend to hose Henry County in a single game on Monday.

    It was an important game for the Lady Eagles as a tune-up for the Bullitt East game later in the week.

    “Henry County was a good tune-up,” Lambert said of the 4-1 victory. “They had good defense and good bats. We hit the ball better that day.”

    Cox was the winning pitcher as she worked a complete game.