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Ballard’s softball team has waited a long time to make a return trip to Owensboro for the Owensboro Health/KHSAA Fastpitch Softball State Tournament.
Head coach Alan Jones and his Bruins can finally book their hotel rooms after holding off Assumption 4-2 in the Seventh Region championship game Friday night at the University of Louisville’s Ulmer Stadium.
“It means a lot to win this,” Ballard head coach Alan Jones said. “We should have won in 2013 and 2014, but we blew it. We were the better teams those years, but we didn’t get the breaks. These girls are awesome. It has nothing to with the coaches. It’s all about these players. We were on a mission, if you want it, go get it, let’s finish what we started. I’m so proud of them.”
It’s the Bruins first regional title in seven years.
Ballard (27-4) scored two runs in the top of the second and fourth innings to take a 4-0 lead and never looked back.
The Rockets (22-13) scored two in the bottom of the fourth, but left runners on second and third and that proved to be their best oppurtunity to tie the game.
“I’m so proud of my team and how they fight,” Assumption head coach Lisa Pinkston said. “They work and they work and they work. They will not lay down. You can’t ever count us out. I know we were unable to win tonight. That’s our mentality. We have a blue collar mentality. That’s the only thing we know how to do. My team showed out until the last at-bat.”
Shelby Kelley pitched a complete game gem for the Bruins and had a perfect game through the first three innings and allowed two runs, four hits, struck out seven, and walked one.
“My curveball was probably 95 percent of what I was throwing tonight,” Kelley said. “I was mixing up my changeups and rise balls and I thought it was working pretty well.”
Olivia Casey threw a complete game for Assumption and gave up four runs, four hits, walked one, and plunked one.
“I’m so proud of how Olivia played,” Pinkston said. “She’s a freshman at Ulmer Stadium playing in-front of a sold out crowd. She did not break. Ballard is No. 4 in the state and they were only able to score four runs. She’s so mentally tough and I’m proud of how she played.”
The Bruins loaded the bases in the second-inning with nobody out, but the next two hitters popped out in the infield. Ballard is No. 4 in the state and she only allowed them to score four runs. Olivia is so mentally
But, Skylar Lee came through with a two-run double to put Ballard up 2-0 in the second.
Taylor Klumb’s run scoring single in the fourth made it 3-0 and Hayleigh Gnagie RBI grounder put the Bruins up four.
Assumption scored their two runs in the bottom of the fourth. Jordan Ridge singled and Maranda Thomas walked.
“Shelby was focused and determined that we were going to win this game,” Jones said. “She bared down. Assumption is the best hitting team in the Seventh Region. Lisa has done a great job and they’re going to be tough as nails since they’re mainly going to be juniors. We knew and great pitching shuts down good hitting. That’s what Shelby did today.”
Braxton Downs and Sydney Young chased the two home with back-to-back singles.
“I just wanted it,” Downs said. “I wanted it for my team. I wanted it for our seniors. I knew what I had to do and I did it. I just wanted to win this game so bad.”
Zakiya Sizemore led the Bruins with two hits and Hayleigh Ganagie and Lee both had one hit.
“We wanted to swing at strikes,” Jone said. “We didn’t want to swing at balls. But, I got to give Skylar Lee credit – she got in there and – and got the bases loaded – got the scoreboard busted open with a 2-0 lead. That was a big momentum swing. Taylor Klumb did the same in the fourth.”
Ashton Dowdy, Downs, Ridge, and Young had one hit apiece for the Rockets.
Ballard advances to next week’s double elimination state tournament and will play the Fifth Region champion, Central Hardin or Green County in the first, at 6 p.m. EDT on Yellow Field at Jack C. Fisher Park.
“It means a lot to win this game,” Kelley said. “But, then again, it doesn’t mean anything, our goal is to win state. That’s the bigger trophy that we want.”
Assumption says goodbye Connie Douglass, Ridge, and Thomas.
“We will work,” Pinkston said. “I lose three seniors and only two starters. Every else is back and we’re going to keep fighting to get better. We will be back here next year at this time.”
But, Downs and the rest of the crew returns including eight starters.
“The seniors set the groundwork for us,” Downs said. “They had phenomenal careers and they paved the way for me. I will miss Jordan, Maranda, and Connie, but we will come back better and strong next year and be playing here again.”