By Nate Bryan
A big inning Tuesday allowed the Holy Cross Cougars to go back-to-back.
Ranked third in the state in the final statewide top-25 coaches’ poll of the regular season, Holy Cross plated five runs in the bottom of the fourth to pull away from the Pleasure Ridge Park Panthers, 10-0 in the 21st District Softball Tournament championship at Fairdale.
Holy Cross, which beat PRP in last year’s final, won its sixth district title in the last seven seasons.
Both teams will play again Saturday morning in the Sixth Region Tournament at different sites. Holy Cross (33-3), making its 10th consecutive region appearance, will be at home. PRP (14-18), playing in the region for the third straight year, will be on the road. The region tournament draw is Thursday.
Senior Morehead State University signee Maddi Gailor, who was named to the All-Region Team last week along with Holy Cross teammates Bella Velez and Carson Goatley, led off the bottom of the first for the Cougars with her 10th double of the season. Gailor scored three batters later on a single by senior Transylvania University signee Kahdylnne “Kadi” Weaver.
Speedy sophomore Neveah Gupton, also a Class 1-A state track champion, beat out a two-out infield single in the bottom of the third to double the Cougars’ lead.
Then came the fourth-inning barrage for the Cougars, who extended their streak to 12 consecutive wins against 21st District foes during the past two seasons. Velez launched her team-leading eighth homer of the season to make it 3-0 and the lead ballooned to 5-0 on a two-run single by sophomore Maddie Emerson. Holy Cross would add two more RBIs in the inning.
Holy Cross tacked on three runs in the sixth to invoke the mercy-rule finish.
Goatley (17-1) recorded the Cougars’ 16th shutout of the year as she reached the 220-strikeout mark for the season.
ALL-TOURNAMENT TEAM: Brooklyn Black (Valley senior), Maddie Gailor (Holy Cross senior), Nevaeh Gupton (Holy Cross sophomore), Madison Hall (PRP junior), Skye Keown (Fairdale senior), Madison Sebastian (PRP senior), Mattie Streble (Beth Haven eighth-grader) and Kahdlynne Weaver (Holy Cross senior).