Back-to-back: Lady Raiders repeat as Region 4 champions

Warren East has extended its stay on top of the Region 4 softball landscape another year.

The Lady Raiders, who have put together another dominant season, added another big achievement to their resume Wednesday night after beating rival South Warren, 6-3, at the WKU Softball Complex to capture their second consecutive Region 4 Softball Tournament championship.

East’s win over South Warren comes just one week after it was defeated 12-2 in five innings by the Spartans in the District 14 championship.

“We got embarrassed in the district championship game,” Warren East coach Philip McKinney said. “We got run-ruled, we made errors … and we had to set there and take it. I made ‘em look at the scoreboard while I was talking to ‘em. I know it stung, I know it hurt ‘em – but a very mature team to come in here in the regional tournament and continue to play softball.”

Warren East – now 33-2 overall on the year – trailed 1-0 after the opening inning but later led 5-1 entering the sixth. South Warren (28-12) scored twice in the top half of the inning to get within 5-3, but the Lady Raiders tallied an insurance run in the bottom frame to seal it.

With the Lady Raiders’ victory, they now advance to the 2019 KHSAA Fast Pitch Softball State Tournament’s Semi-State round and will face Region 3 champion Daviess County at 11 a.m. Saturday back at the WKU Softball Complex.

“I think we’re right where we need to be,” Warren East pitcher Katie Gardner – the Region 4 Athletic Director’s Player of the Year and Tournament Most Valuable Player – said. “We’re gonna take it one game at a time and hopefully keep going.”

South Warren struck first in the top of the first inning.

After Lexi Isable was hit by a pitch in the first at-bat of the game and Jess Bush was walked, Madison Stumbo reached on a fielder’s choice. In the process of Stumbo getting on, a Warren East error allowed a run to come across and gave the Spartans a 1-0 lead.

Warren East responded in the bottom of the third, using two hits and two South Warren errors to score a pair of runs and jump in front. As Gardner led off the frame with a solo home run over the center field wall to tie it, Kelsey Sparks soon singled – and a fielding error with Lucy Patterson at the plate allowed her to reach and scored Sparks to put the Lady Raiders up 2-1.

“That at-bat, I knew that we needed somebody to get us started,” Gardner said. “From there, my team helped me out and continued the inning. After defense, we would come back in and we’d be like, ‘We need some more runs. This isn’t enough. We need to distance ourselves from what they have.’

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“That’s exactly what we did.”

They carried their momentum over into the ensuing inning.

Leading by a run, East put together a three-run set to build a 5-1 advantage. While Olivia Price led off with a stand-up triple, Emmah Young reached on a fielder’s choice with an error that allowed Price to score.

Then, with a runner on, Kya Elkin laid down a triple of her own, and an E2 allowed a run to score before Elkin soon crossed courtesy of another South Warren miscue to give the Lady Raiders a four-run edge.

A Warren East error – followed by an RBI sacrifice groundout by Taylor Enlow – allowed the Spartans to plate a pair in the top of the sixth and cut their deficit to 5-3.

However, an RBI single from Hailey Hymer in the bottom half of the inning gave the Lady Raiders an insurance run to put them up 6-3 – and they were able to keep South Warren from getting anything going in the top of the seventh to come out on top as regional champions.

“Our bats didn’t seem to be on as much tonight and we had four errors,” South Warren coach Kelly Reynols said. “To make four errors and only have two hits … we cannot make errors against a good team. You take those errors away and it’s a totally different ballgame.”

SWHS – 1 0 0 0 0 2 0 – 3 2 4

WEHS – 0 0 2 3 0 1 X – 6 11 2

WP: Gardner.      LP: Reynolds.

Tyler Mansfield@ByMansfield

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