By Conor Revell
OWENSBORO, Ky. — Mercy’s quest for a fourth straight appearance in the Worth/KHSAA State Softball Tournament Final Four ended Friday night as third-ranked Male defeated the Jaguars 2-0.
The Bulldogs (36-8) used strong pitching and aggressive base running to deal the Jaguars their second loss in the double-elimination tournament.
“They’re a good team,” Mercy head coach Greg Meiners said. “They knew what they were going to do. They’re a good program. Josh (Male head coach Josh Bloomer) does a great job. His kids know what they’re supposed to do. I’m pretty proud of our kids, too. They had to adjust to me from what they were used to doing before.”
The Sixth Region champion Jaguars were able to get only six hits against Male’s Oliva Suski, who pitched a complete game while striking out five and walking one.
“We knew they were going to have Leigh Ellen (Thomas) throwing and we knew that it was going to be a battle like it is all the time,” Bloomer said. “We were just hoping to scratch a couple of runs out. We didn’t want to let (Jordan) Vorbrink or Thomas beat us.”
Thomas was brilliant in the circle one last time for Mercy (26-15). The senior left-hander threw a complete game, allowed only one earned run and five hits while striking out seven and walking none.
Male scored its first run in the second inning. Hannah Poynter singled and advanced to second on Kennedy Bishop’s single. Lily Ackerman pinch ran for Poynter and advanced to third on Alexis Betts’ single, then scampered home on Taylor Childress’ chopper.
The Bulldogs scored again in the third inning. Suski singled before pinch runner Jenna Howell stole second, advanced to third on a passed ball and raced home on another passed ball.
Mercy’s best opportunity came in the sixth when Thomas singled to the gap in left-center field. Thomas tried to stretch it into a double and was thrown out at second by Betts, Male’s left fielder.
“It was a momentum-changing play,” Bloomer said. “She has a heck of an arm. It was a nice play by (Alyssa) Case to get the tag out. That was some big momentum for getting the leadoff hitter out. People will question that call, but if I’m Mercy’s coach I send her, too. That’s what we do and that’s what they do. If she’s a half-second earlier, perhaps the game changes.”
Vorbrink had a huge game with three hits for the Jaguars. Kasey Kinsey, Thomas and Sam Dykes had one hit apiece.
“Suski was throwing a lot of stuff outside to the right-handed batters,” Vorbrink said. “She’s a great pitcher. She has a lot of different pitches and that’s awesome. To me, she was throwing inside and that’s helped them out a lot.”
Male advances to play No. 5 Anderson County on June 6 at 10:00 am ET.