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Mercy nips Bullitt East 4-3 in 12 classic innings

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24th District Baseball Final

By Mike Farner

 MOUNT WASHINGTON – Not even Mother Nature could stop a classic high school softball game.

A 70-minute rain delay in the top of the third inning just let the focus become more intense in the championship game of the 24th District Tournament between defending state champion Mercy and Bullitt East.

In the end it took 12 innings and three hours of softball before Mercy pushed across a run with two outs in the bottom of the inning for a 4-3 victory. It was the second time this season that the two new rivals had played a one-run game. Back on April 29, Mercy had won 3-2 on the same field.

Bullitt East had won ten straight games since that loss to Mercy. Both squads came into the game ranked among the top 12 squads in the state and they did nothing to bring doubt on that fact.

Just consider it a preview of this week’s Sixth Region Tournament in which the two new rivals could meet again in Thursday’s final at Ulmer Stadium on the University of Louisville campus.

Bullitt East softball coach Ricky Hoffman could not be disappointed after this classic.

“That was not frustrating at all, that was awesome,” the coach said after a meeting with his team in the outfield grass after the game. “I don’t have a daughter on the team. I’m honored to coach in a game like this. It could have gone either way.

“The last time we played them it could have gone either way,” the coach added. “Tonight it was 12 innings and they were making plays and we made play up until the end. Win or lose I’d take that one.”

After scoring three times in the bottom of the fifth inning to go up 3-1, Mercy fell under the spell of Bullitt East junior pitcher Morgan Raymer Over the next six innings, the Jaguars had just two base runners and one hit, a double in the 11th inning.

Raymer recorded ten strikeouts in the game.

In the 12th, Raymer seemed to remain strong when she got an out to start the inning, but then Aubrey Meiners singled. That lasted only two pitches as Meiners’ pinch runner was called out for leaving first base too early. That brought Lexie Ratterman to the plate. The catcher had struck out four times against Raymer, but this time worked hard to draw a walk.

Mercy lead-off hitter Morgan Meyer then hit a hard grounder to shortstop but a hurried throw was off-line putting runners on first and second. Erica Downey, the Jaguars’ shortstop, came to the plate next and blooped a single down the first base line that found the grass in front of the diving right fielder, allowing courtesy runner Ally Wildt to score from second base.

Hoffman never felt that Raymer was tiring and he had not warmed up anyone earlier in the game.

“She really wasn’t tired,” the coach said. “She thought she was getting pinched a little. She could not do anything where her screwball. She was relying on other stuff. She could have thrown 20 innings tonight.”

Bullitt East had scored first in the game in the fifth inning. Lindsey Renneisen opened the inning with a single and moved up on a sacrifice by Katelyn Scott. Shelby Harris followed that with a single to right field and when the ball was bobbled in the outfield, Renneisen scored.

Mercy answered with three runs in the bottom of the fifth. Tori Lasley led off with a single and moved to second on a sacrifice. After the second out, the top of the Mercy line-up got a single from Meyer before Downey laced a shot down the right field line that landed just inside the chalk and rolled all the way to the fence. Downey ended up with a triple as two runs scored. Jordan Vorbrink then singled to make it 3-1.

Bullitt East stayed hot at the plate in the sixth inning when Emily Salyer smashed a shot for a double. After an out, junior catcher Kelsey Gravens knotted the score with a home run blast to left-center field that easily cleared the fence.

Gravens also had a double earlier in the game that hit off the fence just below the yellow line.

However, just like Mercy, the Bullitt East bats cooled off against Mercy pitcher Hayley Twyman. Following the home run, Twyman recorded 14 straight outs including nine by strike-outs.

In the 11th, Bullitt East lead-off hitter Nikki Hinkley opened the inning with a double and she was quickly moved to third on a sacrifice by Salyer. Morgan Raymer’s fly ball to left field was not deep enough for a tag and after Gravens walked on a full-count, Kayla Raymer hit a line-drive that went straight to Downey at shortstop.

In the top of the 12th inning, Twyman struck out the side.

For the game, Mercy collected nine hits off of Morgan Raymer. Three of the four runs were earned and all four of the runs scored with two outs. Raymer had ten strike-outs and walked two batters.

Bullitt East collected just six hits off of Twyman as the Mercy senior recorded 16 strike-outs with two walks. All three of the Bullitt East runs were earned.

“We did a good job with Vorbrink and Meyer,” Hoffman said of Mercy hiters who have hurt the Lady Chargers in the past. “We pitched Vorbrink a little differently. Then Downey hurt us today.”

Both Bullitt East and Mercy advance to this week’s Sixth Region Tournament that starts on Monday on the fields of the district winners before the semi-finals and final are played on Wednesday and Thursday at Ulmer Stadium on the campus of the University of Louisville.

The two 24th District rivals have to be on opposite sides of the bracket and cannot meet again until the final on Thursday.

“It will be tough for them to beat us three times in a season,” Hoffman said. “We’ll look forward to where every we go on Monday.”

All-24th District Team

After the two team trophies were handed out after the game, there were awards presented to the All-24th District Tournament Team.

Named the tournament’s Most Valuable Player was Downey and she was joined on the honor team by Vorbrink, Meyer and Twyman from her own team. The Bullitt East representatives on the team were Morgan Raymer, Gravens and Hinkley. Also named to the team were Emily Phillips and Gracie Pounders of Jeffersontown, Sara Bibb and Katie Hensgen of Fern Creek along with Cassie Peavler of Whitefield Academy.