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OKOLONA - Let sleeping Lady Panthers lie.
The Bullitt Central Lady Cougars got that message loud and clear on Monday as they were blindsided by Pleasure Ridge Park 10-0 in the opening round of the Sixth Region Softball Tournament.
PRP has won the last four Sixth Region titles, but during the regular season, Bullitt Central had beaten them 4-2 in Shepherdsville. The Lady Panthers have long memories.
On Memorial Day, coach Megan Miller’s team came out with all guns blazing. PRP pounded out 17 hits in six innings to record the victory. The team advanced to the semi-finals on Wednesday at the University of Louisville’s Ulmer Stadium against Butler, another team that beat them during the regular season.
“I guess so,” Bullitt Central head coach Buddy Gallemore said of PRP recalling the loss to his team back on April 25. “They came out hitting. That’s to be expected. They had the determination. That loss fueled the fire.
“That wasn’t the same team we played back a month ago,” the veteran coach said. “On the same token, that wasn’t the same team they were playing.”
No, it wasn’t. In the big game Bullitt Central played perhaps its worst game of the season. The 10-runs that PRP scored was the most that the Lady Cougars had allowed this season and the six inning game was the first time Bullitt Central had been rule-ruled this spring.
Worse, the Lady Cougars committed four errors in the field. On the base paths, there were a pair of double plays, which weren’t that serious, but the Lady Cougars had two runners picked off base including one in the second inning when the score was only 1-0.
Gallemore did not see the poor outing coming.
“I think it was a surprise,” the coach said. “It was early morning and we’re not much of an early morning team. But if you can’t be motivated for the regional tournament then that is not my job to do.
“I don’t know about the worst (game),” Gallemore added. “But it was the first time this season where I don’t think we were in it.”
The game got away from the Lady Cougars in the second inning when PRP scored five runs after there were two outs. In fact, Bullitt Central was within half a step of being out of the inning before the roof caved in on them.
That second inning started with a simple groundout before sophomore pitcher Kaylin Rucker doubled. Another groundout allowed the courtesy runner to get to third. That brought lead-off hitter Paige Murphy to the plate. The sophomore is one of the top players in Jefferson County and had opened the game with a double and then scored the first run of the game.
This time, Bullitt Central pitcher Seaera Minyard induced the left-handed hitting Murphy to chop the ball up the first base line. Minyard fielded the ball cleanly but her throw to first did not beat Murphy.
That opened the floodgates. The next PRP batter reached on an error and then catcher Morgan Hart singled home the third run of the game. Three more singles accounted for three more runs. The inning didn’t end until Rucker, the 11th batter of the inning, flew out to centerfield.
The Lady Panthers added two more runs in the fourth inning and then closed out the victory with two runs in the sixth with just one out when Murphy’s fourth hit of the game scored the last two runners.
Bullitt Central had just five base runners in the game. The only hit came off the bat of number nine hitter Shelby Ross who singled in the sixth inning. Because of the two double plays and two runners being picked off, Rucker faced just 19 batters, one over the minimum.
The Lady Cougars’ season came to an end with a 24-10 mark, the most wins even for the program in fast-pitch play.
“I told them there in the huddle after the game that they were one of the best teams I have coached at Bullitt Central,” Gallemore said. “They should be proud of what they accomplished.
“There is no reason to hang their heads,” the coach added. “We had some girls step up who just started playing this year. They had a lot to do with that streak we had late in the season.”
Bullitt Central had just two seniors this season, but those two will be difficult to replace as Minyard pitched almost every inning and Whitney Miller played every inning at shortstop.
“Those will be big shoes to fill,” Gallemore admitted. “Both of those girls had the drive to work and get better and they hated to lose.”