Ladycats take on Scott in 10th Region Tournament TODAY
The drought is over and the climb back to the top of the 38th district is complete. Following a decisive 12-1 dismantling of perennial favorite Harrison County on May 21, the Pendleton County Ladycats fastpitch softball team escaped from underneath a black cloud that has hovered over the program for nearly two decades in winning their first district championship since 1998.
With the win, the Ladycats end the 12-year stranglehold that Harrison County has established within the district. The Fillies entered the contest not having lost in the championship round since 2006.
The upset victory culminates a meteoric rise made by Pendleton County over the past four seasons as the Ladycats have methodically distanced themselves from the bottom tier of programs around the area to now being in the discussion of district and regional teams to be reckoned with for potentially years to come.
Pendleton County grabbed a 1-0 lead in the second inning after Sydney Manor singled in starting pitcher Kayley Bruener, who led off with a double. The club then seized firm control of the game in the third inning by exploding for eight runs, jumping out to a 9-0 advantage. Sophomore centerfielder Olivia Verst hit a leadoff triple, and that would be followed by RBI hits by junior Samantha Verst and freshman Raegan Carlisle. After Bruener reached second with a double, seventh-grade catcher Maddy Musk clubbed a towering two-run homer that crashed off the scoreboard in centerfield. Kylie Richardson and Avery Himes also delivered RBI hits in the inning, and Carlisle would return to knock in two more runs with a single before Harrison County would record the third out of the inning.
Bruener dazzled on the mound as she silenced the potent Fillies lineup over five innings, yielding just one run on one hit while walking two batters and racking up eight strikeouts over five innings. Pendleton County delivered the knockout blows with three more runs in the fifth highlighted by another two-run single by Carlisle with the bases loaded. She finished with five RBI’s.
After the final out was recorded, the players erupted in jubilation as the realization of what they had just accomplished began to settle in. No one was more moved by the moment than Sam Verst, who has been a part of the program since sixth grade. During her first two years, the team posted a 8-36 mark but, since the start of the 2016 season , they have gone 64-47.
“This has all just been super amazing,” Verst said. “I wanted to win this so badly because my career here is going by so fast. And to be able to do it at home in front of our fans is awesome. This team is so talented and has the chance to do some special things,” she added.
Fourth-year Head Coach Mary Pettit marveled at the poise shown by her youthful- but-talented squad, who has shown a knack for rising to the occasion in high-pressured situations.
“People can forget that this is still a very young team with a few of our starters still being in middle school. But I have tested this group this season by ramping up our schedule and taking on tougher opponents. To accomplish what we have so far has been incredible, and I feel like it could just be the start,” Pettit said.
Pendleton County advanced to the championship round in dramatic fashion by edging past Nicholas County 6-5 in eight innings on May 20. The winning hit came off the bat of Sydney Manor.
The Ladycats now move on to the 10th Region Tournament held at Campbell County High School and will face 37th runner-up Scott High School at 11 a.m. on May 27. The tournament to crown a regional winner and secure a berth in the Sweet Sixteen takes places from May 27-29.