LOUISVILLE – The toughest draw possible? Not a problem for the Bullitt East Lady Chargers.
On Saturday, the red and gold learned that they would have to battle Holy Cross, the state’s 13th-ranked team two days later in the opening round of the Sixth Region Softball Tournament. More daunting, the game would be played at Holy Cross as the Lady Cougars had won the 21st District title by beating Pleasure Ridge Park 12-3 while Bullitt East was coming off a 4-3 12-inning loss to Mercy in the 24th District final.
Holy Cross had reached the semi-finals of the All ‘A’ Classic tournament earlier this spring and in the final week of the regular season had beaten Scott County, the state’s fourth-ranked team, 1-0. The Lady Cougars also had a one-run loss to Mercy during the season.
The quality resume didn’t faze Bullitt East. The red and gold scored three runs in the third inning, including a two-run home run by Morgan Raymer and then let Raymer control the rest of the game in the circle as they won 3-0.
The victory moved Bullitt East, the state’s seventh-ranked team, into Wednesday’s regional semi-finals where they will take on Butler, an 8-0 winner over Bullitt Central.
In fact, Holy Cross’ 29 wins were like waving a red flag in front of the Lady Chargers.
“I’m always up for some good competition,” Raymer said after the win.
“I thought it was great,” veteran Bullitt East head coach Ricky Hoffman said after the game of drawing the highest ranked team possible. “When I saw who was up top (Mercy, which meant that Bullitt East would be in the lower half of the draw), I knew we wanted Holy Cross. That was the draw we wanted.
“In the past we’ve had some tough draws,” the coach noted. “Holy Cross was a good team. You have to beat the best to be the best.”
Bullitt East and Holy Cross did not meet during the regular season, but they did play in last season’s Sixth Region semi-finals, a game the Lady Chargers won 10-6 en route to the title.
All the scoring in the game came in the third inning and much of it hinged on the only error in the game by either team.
Bullitt East had left three runners on base in the first two innings which brought lead-off hitter Nikki Hinkley to the plate to start the third. The team’s only senior starter singled and then moved to second on a wild pitch.
Emily Salyer was next to hit and she popped the ball up just behind second base. There was miscommunication between the two middle infielders and the ball dropped to the dirt. Hinkley broke for third and the throw from the second baseman flew into the dugout, scoring Hinkley and putting Salyer on third.
Raymer, who had singled in the first inning, then came to the plate. The junior launched a pitch to left field that just barely cleared the fence, pushing the lead to 3-0.
That was more than enough for Raymer. The junior did not allow a base runner until an infield single in the fourth inning. Holy Cross did not get a runner to second base until the seventh inning.
There was a tight spot at the end as Raymer hit a batter with one out and then gave up consecutive singles to load the bases. Raymer then got an infield pop-up and the game ended when she struck out the next batter.
Hoffman had gone out to talk with his infielders after the first batter reached base in the seventh.
“We’ve been in that situation before,” Hoffman said. “We just reminded them not to worry about runners when we don’t need too. Then they got some bloopers you can’t do much about. We knew where they were in their order (seventh and eighth) and we had confidence in Morgan. I just told them to get one out.”
The strikeout to end the game was Raymer’s tenth overall. The junior allowed only four hits, all singles, but she did hit two batters. She did not walk a batter.
Was she more pleased with her offense or her defense?
“That’s a tough one,” the junior said. “I’d have to say my pitching.
“I work good under pressure,” Raymer said of the seventh inning. “I wasn’t worried at all.”
The home run was her eighth of the season.
“That pitch was inside,” she said. “I really didn’t think it was gone. I just wanted it to find grass so the run would score.”
The Bullitt East offense had seven hits in the game and four of those came in the third inning. After the home run, Kayla Raymer had a double and Bullitt East left two runners on base. The Lady Chargers had only one base runner over the last four innings, that coming on a pinch-hit single by Grason Gasser in the sixth.
The win moved Bullitt East to 33-5 while Holy Cross’ season ended at 29-5.