Central Hardin Still Could Be On Top!
The first season with the KHSAA State Softball Single Elimination format is in the books and the 5th Region Team had a Final Four finish (the first for a 5th Region Team since 2009 when North Hardin was a 3rd place finisher in the double elimination format), now the questions abode as the 2020 season will be here before you know it and once again that being “Can anyone challenge Central Hardin?”
Actually, there could be several teams, but it seems like every team may have lost some key performers including the Lady Bruins and who adjusts the quickest will have the best chance to end up on top.
One team that comes to mind is Green County, who have played their last game in the Region tournament the past three years against Central Hardin and two of those three games have been a one-run difference. The Lady Dragons always seem to find the right players to stay competitive in this area and despite losing a mini All Star team of Abigail Keltner, Ivy Hedgespeth and Hannah Judd the last two years will probably find someone that can get the job done in the circle again. Before Keltner, there was Majestee Hughes, Mony Matney, Summer Ratliff and Kasey Estes. Let’s not forget, the last team to beat Central Hardin in the Region final was Green County in 2014.
Taylor County is another team which always seems to have a strong squad and despite losing a strong and big senior class this season could be another Final Four team with senior pitcher Autumn Henderson back and key starters like Raegin Mardis, Avery Smith and Addie Westbrook the Lady Cardinals should be ready for another big year.
Elizabethtown is the team many thought might make that big jump in the postseason and they have plenty of youth in Trista Colasonti, Natalie Shaw, Hannah Riley and Kylie McKinney, but if they are ever to make that big leap into the Region Final, the Lady Panthers must find more consistency. With plenty of juniors and sophomores to be the future is now for them.
The battle in the 18th District was interesting to say the least between two 21-win teams in LaRue County and Hart County, with both teams have graduated a huge senior class of quality starters from this year and only time will tell whether they can repeat 2019’s success.
Washington County is another team which has experienced success during the past four years making a Region Tournament appearance each year during that time (a Region Final appearance in 2016), but coach Christy Baker lost six seniors that contributed greatly to that success, so next season could be a transition year for them.
Marion County with Haley Mattingly is a different team than without (15-4 and 4-4). The injury to the star pitcher forced Erin Benton to go with a freshman (Jordan Browning) and a sophomore (Maggie Overstreet) and although both played well, their season ended in the first round of the Region Tourney. If Mattingly makes a complete recovery, watch the Lady Knights make a strong push this season.
And finally we have the 5-time Region champion Central Hardin Lady Bruins. If anyone thinks next season’s team will be a pushover then Good Luck to you. The Lady Bruins will return one of the best batting lineups in the state in Emily Bryant, Angel Ashlock, Bailey Richardson and Madysen Jones. The pitching isn’t bad either with junior Baylee Hardeman and sophomore Kelsey Waters, so a sixth straight Region Title isn’t out of the question. Still, there is the “Kaci Goedde Effect”and just how important she was to during the 5 year run. Consider that Goedde pitched and won all five Region Finals and from 2015 to 2019, Central Hardin lost a single game to a Region team (Taylor County April 25th 13-6) in five years (Goedde got her only lost to a Region foe when she allowed 9 earned runs) and during that time some pretty good opposing hurlers like Keltner and Haley Mattingly never beat the Lady Bruins. Of course, Goedde had a pretty good defense behind her and a batting line up that was a feminine version of “Murderers Row” and her record at State was 6-7, but she pitched in seven elimination games (losing three meaning her winning percentage could have been better). Don’t forget, Central Hardin had a couple of pretty good pitchers in April Pence and Jessica Nall who went 1-2 in the last three Region final games just before Goedde took over.
So, will the Great Lady Bruin empire finally be challenged in come next June?
We shall see.