(Cover photo: Kameron Bowling fired a two-hitter as the No. 19 Cougars won 6-0. Credit: Conor Revell)
Dakota Young has the ultimate challenge of playing softball for her father, Holy Cross head coach Tony Young. But it has worked out quite well.
The sophomore first baseman had two hits, including a two-run homer, and drove in three runs as the No. 19-ranked Cougars knocked off No. 11 Butler 6-0 in the Sixth Region semifinals Tuesday night at the University of Louisville’s Ulmer Stadium.
“I think the biggest difference between last year and this year for Dakota is that her and I have learned how to work together,” Tony Young said. “I never dreamed that I actually would coach her in high school. But our administrators wanted her to come here and it has been the best decision that I have ever made to bring that kid here as academically she has excelled in school. We just had to learn how to work together on the field.”
Butler pitcher Hailey Whitmer struck out six of her first 10 batters and had a perfect game going with one out in the fourth inning. But then Jennifer Peffley laced a triple to left-center field and Butler’s wheels fell off.
“I just went up and walked all the nerves that I had out,” Peffley said. “She had been throwing with a lot of the spin on the ball, but I think we had a bit of nerves too. I went up there and went for a hit. I took advice from Coach Young and slowed down my footwork and drove for the ball.”
Two batters later, Peffley scored on Shelby Atzinger’s double. Young followed with a double to the gap in right-center field to knock in Atzinger and give the Cougars a 2-0 lead.
“This team believes in each other,” Tony Young said. “We don’t have superstars on this team. I read a quote many times that college coaches would say they’ll walk past the five-star athlete to get the team player. They need to be beating the paint off our door because these kids are the ultimate team players.”
Annabelle Ramirez replaced Whitmer and finished the inning but got into a jam in the sixth when Ally Klein led off with a bunt single and stole second base.
Facing a 3-2 count, Young blasted the sixth pitch of her at-bat way over the fence in left-center field to put the Bearettes in a 4-0 hole.
“I was just having fun,” Dakota Young said. “I got all my nerves out. The first at-bat I was really nervous. In my second at-bat I just came into my zone and did my job. I then hit the home run and at that point we were working together as a team. Everybody was up in the dugout and I felt good.”
The Cougars (27-10-1) added two more runs when Kameron Bowling doubled and courtesy runner Amber Kaufman scored on Natalie Bodenbender’s single. Whitmer then came back in and Bodenbender’s courtesy runner, Kailey Reed, raced home all the way from first base on Hannah Burkhardt’s single.
Bowling was dominant in the circle. The junior right-hander went the distance and held Butler (25-7) to two-hits while striking out five.
“Kameron has been a spectacular pitcher for us all year long,” Tony Young said. “She has been underrated all year long. It’s the same for Allie Just. We have a great 1-2 punch. Kameron happened to be in a groove all night long, so we never made the switch that we normally do.”
Bowling’s lone scare came in the fourth inning when Faith Harris launched a ball over the left field fence that would have tied the score at 2, but it went just foul.
“That ball went pretty far,” Bowling said. “I totally had left the ball over the plate and that was my fault. She did her job and took it for a ride, and I got lucky it went foul. I told myself after that, ‘All right, I’ve got to buckle down and hit my zone and hit my spot.’ I then gave her what she thinks she wanted and made her pop up.”
Whitmer gave up four runs and six hits while striking out seven in 5 and 1/3 innings. Ramirez allowed two runs and five hits.
Holy Cross advances to the Sixth Region championship game for the second straight year and will try to end Fern Creek’s Cinderella run at 5:30 p.m. Thursday. Fern Creek beat North Bullitt 2-0 in the other semifinal.
The Cougars defeated the Tigers 5-1 in April.