There’s no chance at a repeat on the softball field this spring.
Madisonville-North Hopkins, the defending champion, fell in the 2nd Region Tournament, meaning there will be a new champion when the Owensboro Health/KHSAA Fast Pitch Softball State Tournament begins at Jack C. Fisher Park on Thursday.
The tournament is in the final year of a double-elimination format. A loss lands a team in the consolation bracket, where they could have to win as many as four games on Friday to stay alive in hopes of playing in Saturday’s 1 p.m. (central) championship game.
Here’s a look Thursday’s opening round games (All times central):
Butler vs. East Carter (5 p.m.): The Lady Raiders, behind the superb pitching of Alabama signee Montana Fouts, put together a perfect 37-0 record. Fouts leads the state with 33 wins, 417 strikeouts and 0.07 ERA. East Carter, ranked second in the final Kentucky Prep Softball Top 25 Coaches Poll, is the only undefeated team remaining in the state, and will look to improve from their appearance in the state tournament last season in which they won three games. The Lady Raiders, champions of the 16th Region, will be aiming for their first title in their third straight trip to the state tournament. East Carter beat Butler at the Tri State Showcase on April 14, 6-5. Butler enters as the 15th ranked team in the state, coming in with a 26-9 record after a 1-0 victory over Mercy in the 6th Region final. It’s their ninth trip to the state tournament and first since 2007. They’ve never claimed the title.
Warren East vs. Ryle (5 p.m.): Warren East enters with a 29-4 mark, earning the trip to Owensboro with an 11-5 victory over South Warren in the 4th Region final. The Lady Raiders were ranked sixth in the final KSCA poll. They’ll look for their first title in their third trip to the state tournament. Ryle will be playing in the state tournament for the 10th time and first since 2012. After moving to 23-6 with a 4-0 victory over Highlands in the 9th Region final, they’ll be looking to make a run at their first state championship since 2006.
Pikeville vs. Clay County (5 p.m.): Pikeville returns to the state tournament for the second straight year, and will look for more success after dropping both games they played last year. The Lady Panthers, playing in their seventh state tournament, posted a 31-9 record, beating Lawrence County, 6-3, in the 15th Region final. Clay County was the 24th ranked team in the final KSCA poll, and will be making their first trip to the state tournament. The Lady Tigers beat South Laurel, 12-2, in six innings in the 13th Region championship game to move to 29-1 on the season. The one loss was to Corbin. Clay County beat Pikeville, 8-1, at the 5th Annual Wizard of Ozz Classic on April 21.
Central Hardin vs. Ballard (5 p.m.): Central Hardin shut out Green County in the 5th Region final to move to 31-9 and earn a spot in the state tournament. The Lady Bruins are ranked 18th in the final KSCA poll. Central Hardin has played in seven state tournaments, including the last four, but has never won it. They won’t have an easy path this year, as they’ll face off in the first round with a Ballard team that beat them on May 17, 9-0. Ballard made it out of the 7th Region with a 4-2 victory over Assumption in the championship game. They currently have a 27-4 record and are ranked fifth in the state. It’ll be the fourth trip to the state tournament and first since 2011 for the Bruins, who look for their first title.
Boyle County vs. Estill County (7 p.m.): After a year away from the state tournament, Estill County will be making their 11th trip. The Lady Engineers made the trip for five straight years out of the 14th Region before that. This year, Estill County comes in with a 23-12 record after a 7-1 victory over Perry County Central in the region final. They lost to Boyle County, their first round opponent, on May 8, 11-0. The Lady Rebels were ranked 19th in the final KSCA poll. They won the 12th Region with a 2-0 victory over East Jessamine, earning their second straight trip to the state tournament and fourth overall.
Scott County vs. Apollo (7 p.m.): Scott County is among the favorites to leave Owensboro with the state title. Ranked first in the final KSCA poll, the Lady Cardinals put together a 33-2 record and outscored opponents in the 11th Region Tournament, 46-1. Scott County is returning to the tournament for the first time since 2016, when they won it all. They were also state champions in 2014. Scott County’s only in-state loss was to Ballard on May 1, 1-0. They beat Apollo on April 21, 7-0. The E-gals took the 3rd Region title with a 7-0 victory over Grayson County. It’ll be the second trip to the state tournament for Apollo and first since 2014.
Christian County vs. Marshall County (7 p.m.): Christian County comes in as the No. 4 team in the final KSCA poll. The Lady Colonels enter with a 35-3 record after a 5-3 victory over Caldwell County in the 2nd Region final. Their three losses come from teams from Alabama. Christian County returns to the state tournament for the first time since 2012. They won it all in 1996. Marshall County will be playing in the state tournament for the second time. The last time the Lady Marshals went was 2009, but a 5-4 victory over Ballard Memorial in the 1st Region final on the final day of May sent them back to the state tournament. The win also moved Marshall County, ranked 12th in the final KSCA poll, to 28-8. Christian County came away with a 4-3 win when the two teams met in March.
Bourbon County vs. Oldham County (7 p.m.): Bourbon County will be heading to the state softball tournament for the first time in school history, after knocking off 40th District and cross-town rival Paris, 8-3, in the 10th Region final. The Lady Colonels moved to 28-10 with the victory. Oldham County will be making their first trip to the state tournament since 2013 and for the fifth time in program history. The Lady Colonels from the 8th Region were slotted 13th in the final KSCA poll. They moved to 36-4 with a 4-2 victory over Collins in the regional final.