FLEMINGSBURG – The top seed in the 61st District softball tournament was still up for grabs entering Wednesday’s games.
Fleming County could have taken it with wins on back-to-back nights, while Rowan County needed just one win to clinch, which they got by traveling to Flemingsburg and scoring twice in the first to take an early lead they would never give up in a 15-7 victory over the Lady Panthers.
“It’s good because you want to go to the region. You feel like, by getting the number one seed, you should be able to get there because Menifee’s pitching is not quite what it should be. That was the goal of Bath, Fleming and Rowan – for one of us to win the No. 1 seed then let the other two fight it out and pick up the next night for the championship game,” said Rowan County coach Larry Slone. “It worked out to where we were able to do that.”
Menifee County has been outscored, 97-1, in 61st District games this season, while Fleming County had beaten Bath County in their one game, 3-2, and Bath County had split the season series with Rowan County.
The Lady Vikings used small ball to get on the board in the first inning Wednesday after a leadoff single from Sarah Hallock. She advanced to third on an error on a ball bunted by Janae Graham that resulted in two runners in scoring position.
Hallock scored on a ground out from Brooklin Adams and Graham scored on a sacrifice bunt from Kammie Rose. From that point on, Rowan County never trailed.
“To be honest, we kind of count on that. We do try to put the small ball in play because we’ve got some speed at the top of the lineup and the bottom to force people to have to play fast,” said Slone. “When you play fast, you make mistakes.
“It’s a great weapon,” added Slone. “Any team that doesn’t use it, I’ll never understand it because it does put you in situations with base runners.”
Sidney Argo, who was second in the state with a .717 batting average entering the game, did was she’s done the last couple years to lead off the bottom half of the inning – got on base. After reaching on a bunt single, she scored on a single to left from Bethany Sergent.
Hollock doubled to left to start a four-run third inning, which was aided by Fleming County’s inability to make plays in the field. They had three errors in the frame as Rowan County took a 6-1 lead. Fleming County finished with eight errors in the game. Caroline Price allowed only one earned run in the seven innings she pitched for Fleming County.
“We’ve got to fix our problems. We’ve just got to play better defense against the bunt,” said Fleming County coach Nathan Ryver. “Normally we do, just tonight I think we rushed.”
Argo scored on a ball hit by Sergent to give Fleming County a run back in the bottom of the third, but couldn’t muster up anything else after getting two runners in scoring position with one down.
The Lady Vikings added two more runs the next inning on a double from Adams, who finished with four RBIs, which scored one of Hollock’s four runs in the game. Adams scored on a single from Elaina Ward.
With the top seed and a first-round playoff game against Menifee County on the line, Fleming County made it interesting by plating five unanswered runs in the fourth and fifth innings.
Mallory Donahue scored the Lady Panthers’ only run in the fourth on an error after reaching on a two-out bunt single, and Fleming County added four more in the fifth to get within one, starting with an RBI single from Kennedy Perkins.
Brie Stacey singled to the gap in right-center to drive home two more runs, before scoring on an error, making it 8-7.
“We’ve got to keep the ball out of the air. The one good inning we had where we were hitting, all the balls were hit on the ground. They were hit hard, hit on the ground and we got our bunts down,” said Ryver.
“The others innings – other than just typically what happens with the top of the lineup with Sid getting on, Bethany getting her over and Mo [Morgan Fern] hitting her in – we’re good for one or two of those runs, but everybody else has to pick up the slack,” added Ryver. “We’ve got to do that by hitting the ball on the ground and making them play defense.”
Within one run was as close as Fleming County would get. Rowan County blew the game open in the top of the seventh with seven runs, including three that scored on a double from Ward that helped give her a four-RBI day. The Lady Panthers had three more errors in the inning.
Erin Wilburn retired all three batters in the bottom of the inning to finish off the complete-game victory. She allowed three earned runs on 11 hits and no walks. Wilburn struck out two batters.
Rowan County improves to 14-4 overall and 5-1 in district play. They’ll face Menifee County at Menifee County at the start of the postseason, but have nine games scheduled before then, starting with West Carter on Thursday at 6 p.m.
With the loss, Fleming County falls to 13-7 overall and 3-2 in district play. The Lady Panthers are scheduled to travel to Bath County on Thursday, before taking on the Lady Cats in the first round of the district tournament. Thursday’s game is scheduled to start at 6 p.m.
2B- Fraizer 2 (RC), Hallock (RC), Adams (RC), Ward (RC)
RBI- (RC) Adams 4, Ward 4, Rose 2, Fraizer 2. (FC) Stacey 2, Sergent, Perkins
LOB- Rowan County 7, Fleming County 7
Records: Rowan County 14-4, Fleming County 13-7