Sixth Region champion Butler fell to fourth-ranked Central Hardin 6-2 in the KHSAA softball semi-state game at Ulmer Stadium Saturday. The Bearettes’ season ends with a final record of 21-17.
“We knew coming in they were going to hit. We just had to hit with them,” said Butler head coach Brittany Braun. “We had the same amount of hits. Each of us had nine. We just didn’t put them all together at once like they did. They’re a good hitting team.
“It has been like a roller-coaster. One day we play well. One day we play bad. I’m just glad that when it counted, they stepped up and came together as a team. Making it to the final 16 in the state is a big deal, so I’m proud of them.”
The Bearettes dug themselves a hole just one batter into the game. Starter Sadie Werner gave up an opposite-field leadoff home run to Central Hardin’s Angel Ashlock to fall behind 1-0. The Bruins added another run in the first when Onnica Nichols hit a bloop single to score Peyton Beger.
“It settled us in,” said Central Hardin head coach Jamie Goodman. “We wanted to try and get on the board early, and that helps a whole lot when you lead off with a home run. It gets your pitcher settled in, makes everyone a little bit more comfortable, and takes the butterflies away. That helped out a whole lot getting those two early runs.”
The Bruins extended their lead in the top of the fourth inning when Emily Bryant took a bases-loaded walk with two outs to score Macey Martin. Eleecia Hager then kept the inning alive with a two-run double for a 5-0 lead.
Butler had its chances to rally, but could not cash in. The Bearettes put two on with one out in the fourth, but Alyssa Brock and Emily Williams hit back to back flyouts to end the inning. In the fifth, Maria Peguero led off the inning with a double. Katelyn Templeman would bring the run home with an RBI single to get the Bearettes on the board.
Kyndal Tinnell led off the sixth inning with a double to straightaway center. Brock singled to put runners at the corners with one out. Two batters later, Peguero singled to score Tinnell to make it 6-2. Then again in the seventh, Butler put two on base, but could not take advantage. The Bearettes stranded seven runners between the fourth and seventh innings.
“It says they have a little fight to them,” said Bruan. “They’re willing to put everything behind them and play one day at a time. They have some fight.
“They never lost hope. And that’s how they’ve been. I’ll take it.”
Central Hardin (35-7) moves on to the state quarterfinals, where it meets Pendleton County Friday, June 7 at the University of Kentucky. The KHSAA changed the format for this year, going from double elimination to single elimination. Both head coaches have mixed feelings about the new setup.
“I can’t say I’m a huge fan,” said Braun. “I get why they did it. Last year, we lost the first game and fought all the way back to get third in the state. Being one and done, I guess they’re just trying to do it like every other sport now, so I get it.”
“I like playing at the colleges, but I’m a huge supporter of the double elimination,” said Goodman. “I’m not a real fan of single elimination. Maybe a change of venue is good, but I thought we need to stay with double elimination.”