VERSAILLES – Three errors on defense, and – from Franklin County’s point of view – a couple errors by the umpires, were too much to overcome as the Lady Flyers lost 3-2 to the Woodford County Lady Yellowjackets in the 41st District Tournament softball final Thursday.
Both teams move on to the regional tournament starting Monday at Eastern Kentucky University. The regional draw will be Saturday at 2 p.m. in Richmond.
There were two calls by the umpires Thursday that drew the ire of coach Tracy Spickard and others on the Franklin County side.
The first came in the second inning after Shelby Sanders and Brianna Banks opened that frame with singles. With one out, Alyssa Gaines reached first on a ground ball to shortstop, but Sanders was called out on the play for runner interference as she tried to move from second to third on Gaines’ ground ball.
Sanders did not make contact with either the softball or Woodford shortstop Catie Fletcher.
The bottom line is the play sapped the Lady Flyer momentum in the inning. Tori Zeigler then struck out to close out the inning.
“That was the first play I was upset about,” Spickard said of the interference call. “There was no contact made, but he said she still hindered the play.”
Woodford County came back to score a single unearned run in the fourth and two unearned runs in the fifth to seize control, 3-0. The Lady Flyers made two errors in the Woodford fifth, though both were tough plays.
In the sixth, misfortune struck again for Franklin County. Kara Howard opened the inning with a single and, with one out, Sydney Wiard reached on an error. Sanders then doubled both runners home to close the gap to one run.
Banks then singled, and Sanders tried to score on the play but was called out at home, though it appeared she got under the tag. Adding salt to the wound, Banks was called out trying to reach second on the throw to the plate, ending the inning.
“His argument to me was that she never reached the plate,” Spickard said of Sanders’ play at the plate.
“It is what it is,” she added. “I told our kids that we shouldn’t have put ourselves in that situation. All three runs they scored were unearned. But, at the same time, we didn’t catch a break with the blue team.
“Still, that’s not what lost us the game. We struggled to hit the ball hard early on, to put the ball in the grass (outfield). So it was a combination of not hitting and our unforced errors.”
Those two calls cast a shadow on an outstanding game between two evenly matched teams.
“It was an excellent game,” Woodford County coach Valdez Floyd said. “It was entertaining on both sides. We feel like Franklin County and ourselves will be two of the strongest teams in the region next week.”
Spickard threw off the rhythm of the potent Woodford offense by switching back and forth between Howard and Ashley Hack on the mound throughout the game. Both pitched outstanding softball, combining to limit the Lady Yellowjackets to just four hits.
“We tried to keep them off balance, and I felt like Ashley and Kara both did a really good job of that,” Spickard said. “That’s a lot to ask of your young pitchers. But we had specific strategies for specific hitters, and we were trying to play to each one of their strengths.”
The Lady Flyers mustered six hits off of Woodford County pitcher Shelby Abel. Sanders hit a double and a single, Banks singled twice, and Howard and Macy Johnson hit one single each.
Despite the loss, Spickard appears optimistic her team can make a splash in the regional.
“We’ve got to step up our hitting and our mental toughness on defense, but we feel like it’s anybody’s game next week,” she said. “Scott County is the front runner as far as the rankings go, but anything can happen. We’ll get a little rest between now and Monday, and have a couple good practices, and fine tune our mechanics and be ready to go.”
Franklin County goes into regional play at 22-13, while Woodford is now 22-14.
Honors were handed out after Thursday’s game for both the All-Tournament team and the season All-District team.
All-Tournament: Franklin County – Sydney Wiard, Shelby Sanders, Ashley Hack; Frankfort – Renaie Dunn, Maya Burke; Western Hills – McKenna Brown, Elizabeth Owens; Woodford County – Shelby Abel (MVP), Andrea Graham, Rachel McCoy, Kayla Clem.
All-District: Franklin County – Macy Johnson, Brianna Banks, Kara Howard; Frankfort – Macy Hutcherson, Aubrey Penn, Shelby Aldridge; Western Hills – Elizabeth Owens, McKenna Brown, Brooklyn Etherington; Woodford County – Keely Moussette, Cheyenne Jamison, Darrian Jamison.