Cooper confident heading into district tournament

Jared MacDonald - [email protected]
Mason County’s Lexy Cooper delivers a pitch during an April 24 game against Bracken County in Brooksville. - Jared MacDonald, The Ledger Independent

The Mason County softball team is aiming for their fourth straight 39th District title.

And the Lady Royals are confident entering the tournament with experience in the circle.

Lexy Cooper has helped Mason County on the way to the three-peat in the 39th, and now as a senior, the pitcher is hoping to claim some more hardware.

“I’m pretty confident, but there’s always that possibility that something could go wrong, but all-in-all, I have really good confidence in this team,” said Cooper. “We’re really starting to come together. Even though it’s the end of the season, we’re really starting to come together.”

It’s a tournament she’s had plenty of success in over the past few seasons. Last year she didn’t pitch in a 15-0 semifinal victory over Augusta, but allowed just three earned runs and struck out seven batters in a 5-4 championship game victory over Bracken County. The year before, she allowed only two hits and two walks in run-rule victories over St. Patrick and Bracken County. She had 12 strikeouts in eight innings during the tournament.

In the regular season this year against district opponents she’s had just as much success. The Lady Royals have outscored 39th District foes, 50-9, claiming two victories over St. Patrick and one over Bracken County. The senior pitched in the first two games – a 17-2 win against the Lady Saints on March 29 and a 17-4 victory in Brooksville on April 24 – allowing just seven hits and striking out 22 batters over 10 innings.

“She’s done a 180 this year from the pitcher she was last year. She’s shown a lot more finesse, she’s really located a lot better, throws more strikes,” said Mason County coach Adam Sapp. “She’s never been a person who walks a lot of people, but she’s just been way more sharp this year around the zone and been far more pitch efficient.”

Following the team’s second meeting with St. Patrick, she had a 3.78 ERA. It’s dropped somewhat with a tough schedule featuring several 16th Region contenders to close out the regular season, but only half of the runs allowed when she’s been pitching this season have been earned and her strikeout totals have continued to soar up to 184 entering Thursday’s game at Lewis County. The total puts her at 17th in the state, according to statistics submitted to the KHSAA website.

Cooper has a full arsenal of pitches to go to, but when she needs a strike, she says she goes to the two seam fastball. Her curveball is her favorite pitch, however, and she takes a simple approach when she gets up on a batter.

“Don’t let them hit it,” said Cooper. “Kind of just relax – you’ve got this. You’re up on them, just do what you know how to do. Really you’ve just got to not throw it down the middle.”

John Greenhill, an assistant on Mason County’s staff, has been her main coach since seventh grade, she says, and she has pitching lessons almost every Sunday. She’s also played travel ball with KAOS Fastpitch, where she’s worked with Krystal Cammuse, an assistant on Midway University’s staff. Cooper signed to play softball at Midway on Wednesday, a school she’s wanted to go to for a while now.

The extra work has helped her stay sharp and work on her pitches, something that’s helped her hit her spots more often this season.

“We’ve gone with more movement this year,” said Sapp. “We called a lot of just straight, flat fastballs last year and we’ve really focused on moving the ball more and having more finesse.”

She’s also improved at the plate this season. As a junior, she hit .352. This year, she’s led the team throughout the season by hitting .473 with 13 doubles and 17 RBIs, taking a “do my job” approach when she steps up to the plate.

“We kind of struggled in the past years with hitting and I have too actually,” said Cooper. “It’s just hitting the ball – know what’s in my zone and know what I can hit and be confident in myself.”

The team as a whole has shown improvement from last year. The Lady Royals won six games total in 2017 and surpassed that mark with a 7-2 victory over Robertson County on May 8 – a game in which Cooper went 4-for-4 at the plate with two doubles and allowed just one earned run.

Mason County is scheduled to close out the regular season Friday at the Boyd County Classic before facing St. Patrick in the 39th District semifinals on Monday in Brooksville at 5:30 p.m.

Throughout the final stretch of the regular season, she’s had one thing in mind when she steps into the circle. It’s a mindset she plans on taking into the district tournament, where she hopes to help the Lady Royals claim a fourth straight title.

“Just throwing strikes,” said Cooper. “That’s what I really need to work on right now.”

Mason County’s Lexy Cooper delivers a pitch during an April 24 game against Bracken County in Brooksville. County’s Lexy Cooper delivers a pitch during an April 24 game against Bracken County in Brooksville. Jared MacDonald, The Ledger Independent
Mason County senior hoping to lead Lady Royals to fourth straight title

Jared MacDonald

[email protected]