Lady Warriors fall in Region Championship

·8 min read

May 31—DANVILLE — For a 2nd straight year, the 12th region title game was played between Southwestern and Boyle County on Monday evening. The Lady Warriors were looking for redemption after falling to the Lady Rebels 4-0 in last year's matchup and 14-0 early in the regular season, while Boyle County was looking for what would be their 5th straight region championship, a run of dominance. After their come-from-behind victory over East Jessamine that propelled them to their 2nd straight title game, the Lady Warriors were looking for magic on Boyle's home field. It was a very anticipated game between 2 of the hottest teams in the Commonwealth, with fan attendance from both schools making this look like a game in the Women's College World Series rather than a high school softball game. Two of the top pitchers in the region (maybe even in the state) took the mound in this one, Kaitlyn Gwin for Southwestern and Kayleigh White for Boyle County. Southwestern would jump out in front early, leading it 2-1 after the first inning and a half, before Boyle County would take off and start dropping single after single it seemed like. After outscoring the Warriors 10-1 the rest of the way through the game, Boyle County would take the 12th region crown for a 5th straight season with an 11-3 victory over Southwestern, with the Lady Warriors magical season coming to a close.

The top of the first inning got off to a slow start for Southwestern as the first batter up would line out in the infield. Alyssa Raleigh would then record the first hit of the game with a single into center field, who would then be followed up by Gwin with her own single into the outfield to put 2 runners aboard for Southwestern (with Sidney Hansen pinch running for the pitcher). A fly out to deep center field by the next batter would bring Aimee Johnson to the plate. Johnson would then proceed to hit an RBI single into left field to put the Warriors up 1-0 early. This was actually the first run Boyle County had given up in the entire region tournament. White would then grab a strikeout on the next batter to retire the side. The lead-off hitter for the Lady Rebels, Summer Ray, would get them going early with a big shot to right field that bounced off of an outfielder's glove, getting her all the way to 3rd base. Although the next batter would fly out to 3rd base, Ray managed to steal home plate on a wild pitch as the following batter came to bat, tying the game up at 1 a piece. The batter who was up, White, managed to take 1st base on a walk. The following batter then flew out to deep right field before Kennedy Qualls laid a great bunt to get to first base. With two runners on, the next batter lined out to 3rd base to end the inning.

White would begin the top of the second inning with her 2nd strikeout of the game, with the next batter flying out behind the catcher to put 2 outs on the board quickly. Brynn Troxell then stepped up for Southwestern with a huge blast to center field to give herself the solo home run (only her 2nd of the year) to put her team up 2-1. An infield single by Ashtyn Hines would follow before the next batter would fly out in the infield to retire the side. Katie Qualls would start off the bottom of the frame by hitting a bunt single. An RBI double by Madison Luttrell would then tie the game up at 2-2. Cambry Cheek would then reach base following yet another successful bunt, with Havannah Maddox pinch running for her, before the Warriors would get their first out of the inning following an infield fly out. Courtney Sandy would reach base following a fielder's choice that got the lead runner out. White came back up to bat, where a hit into the deep outfield resulted in trouble for the Warriors, as they had a lot of trouble fielding the ball, eventually leading to White making it all the way around the bases for a 3 RBI inside-the-park home run, putting the Rebels out in front 5-2. Lauren Tipton would be the first strike out victim of the day for Gwin after this but she would reach base anyways after the final pitch went wild. Kennedy Qualls would then have a single into left field off of an infielder's glove before an infield single by Ella Coffey would load the bases up. Fortunately for Southwestern, they managed to get out of the jam following an infield line out to retire the side.

Gwin would reach base successfully to begin the third inning following a walk, with Hansen coming on to pinch run once again. The Warriors wouldn't be able to bring Hansen home, however, as the Lady Rebels sat down 3 straight batters after this to end the top of the frame. White also grabbed her 3rd strikeout of the evening during this inning. a pop fly by Luttrell would land in center field to give her a lead-off single before Cheek would successfully execute a sacrifice bunt to advance the runner into scoring position, with Addie Cannon then coming on to pinch run for her. An RBI double by Ray would give the Lady Rebels their 6th run of the game at this point. After the next batter flew out in the infield, a single to center field by White would score yet another run, making the score 7-2. Another RBI single followed, this one by Tipton to make the score 8-2. The next batter would bunt, with it then going straight to the pitcher for an out, retiring the side for Southwestern. The lead was looking more and more insurmountable by the inning.

Boyle County was able to retire 3 straight batters following fly outs in the top of the fourth inning, with White looking more and more unhittable as the game continued. The first batter up for Boyle in the bottom of the inning would be out in quick fashion, although Katie Qualls then followed that up by reaching on a single or an error. Following a Katie Qualls' steal of 2nd base, an RBI single to center field over the pitcher was struck by Luttrell, with the score now being 9-2. Southwestern recorded the 2nd out of the inning on the next batter, before Ray struck another hit to center field, this one being yet another single. Southwestern would then be able to get a runner out on 2nd base following a solid hit by the next batter to retire the side with limited damage coming across, although at this point, it seemed as if the dream was fading for the Lady Warriors.

It was back to the top of the order for Southwestern in the top of the fifth, where Hines legged out another infield single to start it off. A great bunt by Raleigh would advance Hines into scoring position, before a huge shot to deep center field by Gwin would give her an RBI double and cut into the lead a little bit, with the score now 9-3. Boyle County would stop the runner there however, as they would get 2 straight outs to reach the bottom of the 5th with only one extra run coming across. White would lead off here, where she would grab a hit to left field for a double. Another double by Tipton would put 2 runners in scoring position for the Rebels with no outs, with a bunt single by Kennedy Qualls loading up the bases following that. Southwestern then recorded 2 straight outs to almost get them out of the jam, with one being via strike out by Gwin (her 2nd of the game). However, a single to center field by Luttrell would score 2 runs, putting the Lady Rebels only 2 runs away from the run rule being activated at 11-3. Gwin would then clutch by throwing her 3rd strikeout of the day to retire the side.

The Lady Warriors only had 6 more outs to work with to get at least 8 runs, so the math and the momentum were both clearly against them. In the end, neither team scored any runs in both the sixth and seventh innings and as White grabbed her 4th strikeout of the game in the bottom of the 7th, Boyle County celebrated, as the Lady Rebels had won their 5th straight region championship with an 11-3 victory. A tough break for the Lady Warriors but they shouldn't hang their heads over losing to a powerhouse like Boyle. A remarkable season to be sure!

The 12th Region All-Tournament team was announced following the conclusion of the game and locally, the following players made the team. From Wayne County, Malainey Dobbs; From Pulaski County: Jessie Begley; From Somerset: Addison Langford; and from Southwestern: Kylie Dalton, Taylor Nelson, and Kaitlyn Gwin. That concludes the Southwestern Lady Warriors 2022 season and let me be the first to say how proud I am of that group of girls. They have improved so much from the beginning of the season to the end, with this team possibly going down as one of the best in school history (especially in the hitting department). Congrats to the Warriors on all you have accomplished and congrats to the following seniors as well (even though the season didn't end the way you wanted it, you have accomplished so much and should be proud): Kaitlyn Gwin, Ashtyn Hines, Aimee Johnson, Brooklyn Marcum, Taylor Nelson, and Alyssa Raleigh.