OWENSBORO, Ky. – By far the smallest school in the Worth/KHSAA State Softball Tournament, Holy Cross High School doesn’t mind telling you it’s playing with a chip on its shoulder.
“We all have a chip on her shoulder,” junior pitcher Kameron Bowling said. “You hear the talk, ‘Oh, we’re the smallest school in this Kentucky state tournament.’ … But we’re here to prove that we have the best 15 girls in the state and we’re here to win a tournament just like everybody else here.”
The Cougars made quite a statement Thursday night, pounding out 10 hits on their way to a 10-4 victory over Anderson County in a first-round state tournament game at Jack C. Fisher Park.
Holy Cross (29-10-1) – ranked No. 19 in the state coaches Top 25 – is in the event for the first time and will face No. 3 Scott County in a winners bracket quarterfinal at 10 a.m. EDT Friday.
“They want to prove that even though we don’t have a lot of kids in our school that we belong here,” said Holy Cross coach Tony Young, whose school has an enrollment of 241. “They’re good enough to be here. It’s not a fluke that we’re here. We’re supposed to be here, and we’re here to compete to win this thing.”
It was a good opening night for both of Louisville’s representatives in the tournament, as No. 7 Male shocked No. 1 McCracken County 3-1. McCracken County (36-3) is the defending state champion, having defeated Male in last year’s final.
* Holy Cross-Anderson County: The No. 8 Bearcats (26-10) took a 1-0 lead in the top of the first inning before the Cougars exploded for four runs in the bottom of the first and five more in the third.
Allie Just’s two-run single sparked the first-inning rally, and Bowling had a two-run single in the third.
“Our team builds off of each other’s energy, and we came in there like, ‘OK, it’s time to score. It’s time to rack these runs up,’” Bowling said. “That’s definitely what we did.”
The first eight batters in Holy Cross’ lineup each had at least one hit. Hannah Burkhardt went 2 for 4 with an RBI, and Shelby Atzinger was 2 for 2 and scored three runs.
“We weren’t quite as patient as I’d like to have seen offensively,” Young said. “But we did hit the ball really well tonight. … Step in there, do your job and pass the bat.”
Bowling got the victory, allowing four runs (one earned) and six hits in five innings. Allie Just pitched two innings of scoreless relief.
Now it’s on to face a Scott County team that defeated Holy Cross 7-2 on March 18.
“I think Scott County is one of the teams to beat in this, no doubt about it,” Young said. “I’d much rather play them at the beginning and put them in the losers bracket and make them fight their way back. If we can knock them off in the morning, we’re right where we want to be and have a shot to win this thing.”
* Male-McCracken County: Alyssa Case had an RBI double and Bayleigh Masterson followed with a two-run homer to give the Bulldogs (30-8) a 3-0 lead in the fourth.
“I told her to look down in the zone,” Male coach Josh Bloomer said of Masterson’s at-bat. “She kills ball down in the zone. We worked on it all day today … and that was just a huge hit.”
Karlie Hatton’s RBI single pulled McCracken County within 3-1 in the sixth, and the Mustangs loaded the bases with two out. But Abby Shoulders lined out to Male shortstop Hayley Simon to end the inning.
“That was a state-championship atmosphere,” Bloomer said. “That was two great teams playing. … It’s a great win because it’s definitely tough to come out of that losers bracket.”
Male pitcher Olivia Suski allowed an unearned run and six hits to get the victory in the circle. She did not record a strikeout.
“That zone was really, really tough tonight, and she found ways to make pitches,” Bloomer said. “We made plays behind her. … I told her, ‘Don’t worry about striking people out. Let your defense play.’ We made play after play, and we never blinked.”
It was a bit of revenge for a Male squad that had been knocked out of the state tournament by McCracken County each of the past two seasons.
Male will face No. 21 North Laurel (24-12) at 10 a.m. EDT Friday in the quarterfinals of the winners bracket.
In other first-round games:
Malin Miracle went 3 for 4 with a double and three RBIs as No. 9 East Jessamine (37-4) beat No. 13 East Carter 7-4, handing the Raiders (34-1) their first loss of the season. East Carter sophomore pitcher Montana Fouts, who has committed to Alabama, had allowed just four earned runs all season but gave up seven runs and 11 hits Thursday. … Paige Hill tossed a one-hitter and struck out three as No. 10 Daviess County (33-7) posted a 5-1 victory over No. 16 Central Hardin (31-9). … Bailey Spencer allowed just three hits and struck out six as Highlands (24-10) picked up a 5-1 victory over Clark County (19-15). … Hailey Rodgers went 2 for 3 with a home run and three RBIs as No. 2 Madisonville-North Hopkins (34-3) rolled to an 11-0 victory over Johnson Central (26-15). … Mikayla Vires as 3 for 4 with two doubles and three RBIs as North Laurel posted a 10-5 victory over Estill County (22-12). … Jordan Ison went 4 for 4 and Taylor Ricketts homered and drove in three runs as No. 3 Scott County (32-2) rolled to a 13-4 victory over South Warren (25-14).
ANDERSON COUNTY 100 012 0 – 4 8 0
HOLY CROSS 405 100 x – 10 10 3
WP – Kameron Bowling. LP – Mia Aldridge. 2B – Hannah Burkhardt (HC), Shelby Atzinger (HC).
MALE 000 300 0 – 3 7 3
MCCRACKEN COUNTY 000 001 0 – 1 6 0
WP – Olivia Suski. LP – Audrey Dodd. HR – Bayleigh Masterson (M). 2B – Dani Walls (M), Alyssa Case (M), Hannah Ridolfi (MC).
Jason Frakes can be reached at (502) 582-4046 and firstname.lastname@example.org.