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OKOLONA – North Bullitt’s season of re-emergence came to an end on Monday as the Lady Eagles dropped a frustrating 2-1 decision to Southern in the semi-finals of the 23rd District Softball Tournament on the Lady Trojans’ home field.
North Bullitt was coming off a one-win season that had ended with a run-rule decision in the district tournament. That brought about a coaching change and Mike Nally took the helm.
The transformation to an improved team was not a quick one. At the end of April, the green and gold stood at 3-12, but over the final week of the month, they had lost close games to three strong programs. That set the stage for a strong stretch run as Nally’s team won six of its final eight games heading into the post-season.
One of those losses was an 8-1 setback to Southern.
But the confidence was building and the green and gold were thinking win on Monday in the rematch against the Lady Trojans. The winning thoughts jumped even more when sophomore Shelby Crenshaw turned on a pitch in the first inning and deposited it over the left field fence.
Unfortunately, that was the only run that the Lady Eagles would score despite collecting five more hits and finishing with one more hit than Southern. Twice, North Bullitt had base runners called out past second base and the green and gold got runners to second and third in the top of the seventh inning with one out but could not get the runners home.
“We just came up short,” Nally said after meeting with his team on the field after the game. “They peaked at the right time and did everything they could. We just came up short.”
Southern got the run back in the bottom of the first without getting the ball out of the infield. A walk by Crenshaw of the number two batter was erased when catcher Brooke Adams gunned her down trying to steal second. Crenshaw then walked Avery Conley and she moved to second when pitcher Rachel Metcalf reached on an infield single.
At that point, Adams attempted to pick the runner off first base and her throw to Caitlin Crowder was close. But as Crowder kept the tag on in an attempt to sway the umpires’ decision, Conley never stopped around third base and scored ahead of Crowder’s throw.
That was the way the game stayed for the next four innings. Southern final broke through with a run in the bottom of the sixth inning.
Conley singled to open the inning and moved up on a passed ball and wild pitch in front of Metcalf walking and then taking second on an uncontested steal. Crenshaw got a pop-out for the first out of the inning, bringing Kayla Knight to the plate. Knight got the bunt down the third base line and Conley beat the throw to the plate for what would be the winning run.
North Bullitt got a runner to third base in the fourth inning but she was called out for leaving the base early. In the sixth, a single and a sacrifice put a runner on second, but she was thrown out trying to steal third.
In the seventh, North Bullitt opened the final frame with singles by Adams and Crowder and they both moved up when a third strike swing was also a passed ball. The game then ended with a strike-out and a fly ball to right field.
“It was hitting,” Nally said of the reason for the loss. “You have to hit the ball. We got the early home run and then didn’t hit the ball any more. Their pitcher did a good job keeping us off balance.”
Crenshaw took the loss despite allowing only five hits. Both runs scored in innings in which the ball never left the infield. Crenshaw finished with eight strike-outs and she did walk three batters.
North Bullitt will lose four seniors from this team who stuck it out through some tough times.
“You can’t take away what the seniors have done,” Nally said. “That’s what I just told them on the field. “It was all the seniors. I just said thank you for putting the program back in order.”