LEXINGTON — The Franklin County Lady Flyers played the part of a potential 11th Region champion with a convincing, 9-4, win over the Henry Clay Blue Devils Monday in the regional tournament quarterfinals at Bryan Station High School.
Senior pitcher Kara Howard and senior shortstop Shelby Sanders led a balanced Franklin County offense as the Lady Flyers (28-8) advanced to face Lafayette at 6 tonight in the semifinals.
Lafayette (21-13) heated up late and eased past Madison Southern, 16-5, in another quarterfinal Monday.
Howard set the tone for the Lady Flyers, slamming a home run way over the right field fence on the second pitch of the game from Henry Clay starter Anna Hensley.
Whitney Edwards of Franklin County doubled home another run in the first inning to make it 2-0, giving the Lady Flyers a lead and momentum they never surrendered.
Howard hit another home run, a two-RBI shot, in the Lady Flyers’ five-run, fourth inning, that broke it wide open. She also hit a single in the game.
Sanders, meanwhile, hit a home run in the sixth inning after the Blue Devils had closed within 8-3 and appeared to be sniffing momentum.
“Me and Shelby have a tendency to tag team home runs,” Howard said. “We don’t let anybody outshine one another.”
“I just focus on my head to the ball,” Sanders said of her hitting. “I wasn’t really focusing on that (home runs). I think when I least expect it, and I just try to make contact, it usually goes.”
Sanders also had a double during the five-run fourth.
Franklin County coach Tracy Spickard said Howard and Sanders have anchored her team’s power hitting attack all season.
“They are two strong hitters,” Spickard said. “They can hit for power, and they can also bunt.”
Franklin County pounded out 10 hits in all, and most of them were emphatic. Sydney Wiard and Shelby Brown both doubled, and Tori Zeigler and Kiana Butler each singled.
“I thought we came out strong, putting some runs on the board,” said Howard, who also threw a complete game, scattering eight hits. “We had kind of been struggling to hit the ball hard prior to this, so I was really proud of them coming out and hitting the ball hard today.”
“We’ve been a little inconsistent offensively of late, so it was real good to get out of the gate strong and be hitting it one through nine,” Spickard added. “We talked all year long about how important it is to try to take control of the game early, and we did a good job of that in the first inning.
“Then we kind of backed off a little bit and got a little complacent. We’ve got to finish stronger tomorrow than we did today.”
Franklin County also played errorless softball in the field.
“Our defense was solid,” Spickard said. “I thought we communicated extremely well today. There were several fly balls that were tweeners between two outfielders, and a couple between the infield and outfield, and I thought they did a good job communicating, which is so critical.”
Howard admitted there is a sense of urgency this spring with so many seniors on the Lady Flyers’ roster.
“We want to go out with a bang,” she said. “We want to leave a legacy that they will remember.”
Spickard said her team harnessed that emotion well Monday.
“We’ve got several seniors, and I felt like the last three days at practice, they were preparing themselves well,” Spickard said. “Warming up today, they were loose, not tight. And that’s important to be relaxed, yet focused, and we had that today.”
Franklin County and Lafayette did not playing during the regular season.
Tori White led the Henry Clay offense Monday with three singles. Alex Cooper had a double and a single, and Sarah Parsons hit a two-run home run in Henry Clay’s half of the sixth inning.
The Blue Devils finished the season 16-13.
To see more photos from the game, click here.