A district championship, a graduation ceremony and three funerals.
The last days of the school year are often a flood of emotions, especially for athletes who may be wearing their school colors for the final time, but the Pleasure Ridge Park (Louisville, Ky.) softball team has endured far more than its fair share recently.
In a six-day span from May 16-21, an assistant coach lost her brother to what police have ruled a murder and two players lost their fathers – one to a motorcycle accident and the other to a heart attack.
The Panthers could have folded under the circumstances, and no one would have blamed them. But they bonded, played some of their best softball of the season and upset 12th-ranked Holy Cross 5-4 on Tuesday to capture the 21st District Tournament title for the first time since 2012.
Now it’s on to the Sixth Region Tournament, which starts Monday. Three more victories and the Panthers will travel – along with their “Angels in the Outfield” – to Owensboro, Kentucky, for the state tournament.
“Did they surprise me? No, not at all,” PRP coach Megan Miller said. “I knew they were a tough group of girls, and they truly showed that this past week by just wrapping their arms around one another and taking pride and taking ownership.
“… It was a very emotional time, but I think it was good for the girls to prevail through adversity. People say, ‘Oh, you all got lucky.’ They didn’t get lucky. Those girls played their guts out. With everything they had thrown against them this week, they played with everything they had.”
The team’s tragic week started May 16, when David Everly, the 52-year-old brother of PRP assistant coach Shelia West, was shot to death while sitting on the front porch of his home in the 3300 block of Taylor Boulevard. Police later arrested Robert Crittenden, 22, and charged him with murder.
Two days later, Robert “Mike” Logsdon, the father of PRP sophomore outfielder Brianna Logsdon, died following a motorcycle accident. He was 40.
On Sunday, the day after the team attended Everly’s funeral, senior pitcher/first baseman Zoe Box lost her father, Shannon, to a heart attack. He was 46.
With PRP set to open postseason play against Fairdale on Monday, Miller admitted she wasn’t sure how her team would react.
“We have a great group of girls, and they’re a very team- and family-oriented group,” she said. “I knew they would pick one another up and be there for one another. But I also knew a death like that for a (teenager) is something they haven’t really experienced yet. I wasn’t sure how they were emotionally and physically going to be able to handle that.”
The Panthers beat Fairdale 10-6 on Monday and then defeated Holy Cross the next day in the district final. Holy Cross had defeated PRP 3-1 earlier in the season and had won four straight district championships.
During both district games, the Panthers wore black wristbands to honor the three men who died. A sign in the dugout read, “We Play For Them,” and each player wore a sticker on the back of her helmet with the same motto.
“We bonded as a team this week and spent numerous hours talking about it,” Logsdon said. “We cried together, and we laughed together
“… I was scared, given all of our emotions and everybody being so emotional, that things weren’t going to come out the way we expected. It was such bad timing the way everything happened. But I’m so glad we were able to get it together and come through all the way.”
Logsdon said softball has served as an escape from the pain of losing her father.
“When I step on the field everything on the outside drops,” she said. “I’m in my own little world, and everything else doesn’t matter. It’s just about that game and about everything that needs to be done.”
After the Holy Cross victory, Shannon Box and Mike Logsdon were named to the all-tournament team, with their daughters accepting the awards on their behalf.
“They were our 10th and 11th men in the field,” Miller said of two men. “They got us through it. They deserved it.”
Miller said she’s been overwhelmed with the support from the PRP administration and the softball community.
PRP athletic director Nick Waddell organized a party at PRP Pizza for the team after Tuesday’s victory. Miller said the softball team at Butler – PRP’s archrival – attended Wednesday’s funeral for Logsdon and that coaches from around the state have offered their condolences.
“We’re competitors, but at the end of the day true humanity really comes out,” Miller said. “They know there’s a bigger picture. … You live for this moment, and you live for this day because we know that tomorrow isn’t promised. Too often we take things for granted.”
Box, who has committed to play softball at Campbellsville University, went through PRP’s graduation ceremony on Thursday. Her father’s funeral was scheduled for Friday.
Box said the support of her teammates has been a blessing.
“We obviously went through a lot with three deaths in one week, so the team’s heart was heavy,” she said. “We really wanted the win and wanted to fight and play for our angels up above.”
Logsdon said the Panthers will continue to do just that for as long as their postseason run continues.
“I feel like what we went through this week is the worst that it can get,” she said. “It’s only made us stronger, and we’re just going to keep building from here. Beating Holy Cross was a big confidence boost for a lot of us and gave us a new outlook on who we are as a team and what we can really accomplish.”