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FAIRDALE - North Bullitt and Southern set up a rematch of last year's 24th District Softball Tournament championship game on Tuesday when both team's eased into the final on the strength of one big inning.
In the first game, North Bullitt took advantage of what at the time appeared to be a minor miscue by Bullitt Central to roll to a 6-0 victory.
Southern scored three times in the top of the third inning to take a 4-0 lead over Bullitt East and they went on to record a 6-2 win.
One Miscue Lifts NB
In a scoreless game, Bullitt Central looked like they would stay close to North Bullitt in the third inning before six straight batters reached base after there were two outs.
Cierra Hayes had started the surge with a double, but Bullitt Central looked to be out of the inning when Erin Cox hit a chopper to third base. The throw was just a little high and Cox got the benefit of the doubt on the bang-bang play at the plate. During the commotion at first, Hayes raced home with the first run.
What looked to be over for North Bullitt was just starting. Catcher Breanne Kuffner follwed with a single and then Leah Cherry drove home two runs with a double. Back-to-back singles by Kayla Middleton and Darian Davenport each plated a run to suddenly give the Lady Eagles a 5-0 lead.
That was more than enough for Cox as the sophomore pitcher allowed Bullitt Central just two hits. Both of those hits came off the bat of eighth-grader Selena Yunt. The Lady Cougars did not get a runner past second base.
North Bullitt capped the win when Cherry belted a home run in the bottom of the fifth inning.
The Lady Eagles had beaten Bullitt Central twice during the regular season, but the second game was a lot closer than the first one.
North Bullitt head coach Eric Lambert is in his second stint as the Lady Eagle head coach. Both times he has been the head coach his team has had the number one seed. The first time, the Lady Eagles were upset in the semi-finals.
"I think the players were more relaxed than me," the coach said after the game. "The last time I was the head coach we lost to Spencer County when we were the number seed. I was more nervous this time."
Many games at this time of the year come down to one mistake.
"That's what district softball is all about," the coach said. "Many games for us this year have come down to something like that."
For Bullitt Central it was a tough loss in a learning situation. This is a Lady Cougar team starts only two seniors. Five of the nine batters are freshmen or younger.
"You win as a team and you lose as a team," Bullitt Central head coach Buddy Gallemore said. "We didn't hit it like last night (in the first-round win over Fairdale). Erin is a very good pitcher. She was hitting her spots and changing her speeds."
Gallemore did not argue the close play at first base.
"At that point in the game it's still 0-0 and there were two outs," the coach recalled. "I don't want a young team to get flustered and think that a call will break them. In a close game I don't want my role to change the demeanor of the players."
Bullitt Central freshman pitcher Seaera Minyard gave up eight hits but the only earned run was Cherry's home run. Cherry had two hits in the game as did North Bullitt freshman Darian Davenport.
After a big week midway through the season where they beat Bullitt Central twice and North Bullitt once, the Bullitt East Lady Chargers fell on hard times. Over the last three weeks of the season, the team won just one game.
The problems continued on Tuesday as Southern raced out to a 4-0 lead and then won 6-2. It was the second time this season that Southern had beaten Bullitt East. The first win had knocked the red and gold out of the top-seed in the district tournament.
Southern scored a run in the first and then added three more in the third frame. Bullitt East could get no closer than three runs the rest of the way.
The Lady Chargers did get a run in the third inning when lead-off hitter Lavella Hall singled. After a sacrifice and a pop-up, Hall scored on Rachel Simms' single.
The other Bullitt East scored in the fifth inning on back-to-back singles by Chelsea Roby and Simms. That inning ended with a double play and while Bullitt East had a hit in each of the last two innings, they could not get a runner past second base.
For the game, Bullitt East had eight nits, but left nine runners on base.
"It's not our defense," head coach Ed Phelps said after the game. "Our defense was fine. We played well enough to win. We just didn't get any key hits. We didn't execute and couldn't score."
Phelps knew that Southern would score, but he thought his team could match that offense.
"We knew they would hit the ball ball," the coach said. "I put a score of 5-4 on the scoreboard yesterday (at practice). I told them if they get over four that we'd be in trouble. I thought five or six would be tough for us."
In her final game, Bullitt East pitcher Ashley Ploetner gave up 13 hits and recorded six strike-outs. The senior walked just one batter.