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LOUISVILLE - The last time the Bullitt East Lady Chargers played at Ulmer Stadium on the University of Louisville campus in the Sixth Region Softball Tournament, it was against Butler. On that spring day in 2006, the red and gold had no hits and lost 6-0.
That outcome seemed more like five decades ago, not five years ago, on Wednesday as the Lady Chargers pounded out 19 hits and rolled past the Bearettes 17-10.
The win moved Bullitt East into Thursday’s championship game against Pleasure Ridge Park, the two-time defending regional winner.
In the three seasons in between trips to the regional final, Bullitt East lost at least 20 games each spring.
The whole complexion of the contest was unexpected. Butler has been ranked among the top-25 teams in the state most of this season. When the Bearettes visited Mount Washington back on May 5 a seventh-inning home run gave Butler a 4-3 victory in a game in which Bullitt East once led 3-0.
That was why Bullitt East wasn’t celebrating a 3-0 advantage after two innings. The Lady Chargers kept pushing and pushing. Coach Ricky Hoffman’s team scored three more runs in the fourth inning and three more in the fifth. The big boppers then exploded for eight runs in the top of the sixth to put the game on ice.
“I didn’t see any way that there would be this many runs scored,” Hoffman said after celebrating the victory with his team. “I knew we could hit (Butler starter Tori) Ziegler. I didn’t think we would do it right off the bat.”
Some of the Bullitt East seniors on this team were part of the team five years ago that reached the Sixth Region championship game including outfielder Jenna Simms who had three singles and a double in this contest.
The clean-up hitter dreamed of beating Butler many times, but the outcome didn’t look like this.
“Oh my, gosh no, I never imagined it like this,” Simms said with a smile after the game. “It was 4-3 the first time so I thought it would be close today.
“We were told before the game to be aggressive,” the senior added. “We wanted to swing it hard. When you do that good things will happen - repeatedy. Everybody on the team had several good hits.”
Ziegler started for the Bearettes and retired exactly zero batters in two separate stints inside the circle. As it turned out, Butler head coach Brittany Braun used three different pitchers with two of those hurlers twice moving to the job.
Bullitt East lead-off hitter LaVella Hall opened the game with a single and then stole second base before Taylor Price walked. The first big hit of the game then came when sophomore catcher Rachel Simms drilled a shot to the gap in right field that plated both runners with Simms sliding into third. Jenna Simms then doubled her sister home and chasing Ziegler from the circle.
Butler senior Jerilyn Meeks was next to pitch for the Bearettes and she fared somewhat better, holding Bullitt East to the three runs in the first and then allowing only one base runner each of the next two frames. During that time, Butler scored twice to get back in the game.
The Lady Chargers posted three more runs in the fourth when Kirsten Price and Jamie Lutes led off the frame with singles. A pair of fielders choices’ and Hall being hit by a pitch followed before Rachel Simms drove home two more runs with a double.
After Butler pulled within 6-4, Bullitt East pushed forward again with three more runs in the fifth. Seniors Erin Manns and Brook Hammons opened the inning with singles, chasing Meeks in favor of sophomore Mallory Evans. Kirsten Price greeted Evans with a double that scored both runners. After a sacrifice by Lutes, Price scored on a wild pitch.
Butler still wouldn’t go away. The Bearettes chased Lutes in the bottom of the fifth with three more runs including a pair of doubles. It was still a tight game at 9-7 when Hoffman lifted Lutes in favor of eighth-grader Morgan Raymer with two outs and a runner on second. Raymer induced Meeks to ground-out to Hall to end the inning.
“Jamie wasn’t pitching badly, but they had seen her,” Hoffman said of the regular season game and then five innings on Wednesday. “She was throwing a lot of pitches. I told her that they needed to see something different. I have a lot of confidence in Morgan and she did it today.”
To start the sixth inning, Campbell again inserted Ziegler into the circle and again she could not get anyone out. She faced seven more batters with five singles, an error and a hit batter. At that point, Meeks went back to give it another try.
Hall greeted that pitching change with a single that scored two more runs. The sixth inning saw Bullitt East with seven hits as 12 batters went to the plate.
Butler did get three runs in the bottom of the sixth to extend the game. One of the hits was a home run by junior Kelsey Hicks. Raymer then settled down and retired the Bearettes in order in the seventh.
Eight of the ten Bullitt East batters who came to the plate had at least one hit. Jenna Simms and Kristen Price each had four hits while Hall and Taylor Price each had three hits. Hammons added two hits. Taylor Price actually had no hits in the game, but she scored three times.
Five of the 19 hits for the Lady Chargers went for extra bases. Rachel Simms had a triple and a double while Kirsten Price had a pair of doubles. Jenna Simms had the double in the first inning.