Vaught's Views: With North Laurel out, any team could win regional

June 01, 2004|LARRY VAUGHT

North Laurel will not win the 12th Region Softball Tournament at Russell County this week.

Even though that's a given, it's still hard to believe. Or even write.

When seniors playing in this week's tournament at Russell County were in middle school, North Laurel was winning the regional title. It stayed that way until last week when Pulaski Southwestern stunned top-seeded North Laurel 3-1 in the 48th District semifinals.

When regional play opens tonight, South Laurel, not North Laurel, will be considered the team to beat. However, for the first time in perhaps eight years, other teams at least have to believe they have a chance to win the tournament.

One of those teams is Danville, which has won three straight 45th District titles but has never been a factor in regional play. The Admirals (20-16) face Mercer County (6-13), a team they beat 15-0 May 4, tonight at 7:30 after Southwestern (27-7) plays Wayne County (8-19) in the opener.


On the other field at Russell, South Laurel (31-5) will play host Russell (21-11) in the first game while Garrard County (14-14) will meet Boyle County (10-16) in the second game at 7:30.

If Danville beats Mercer, it would likely face a surprising Southwestern in Wednesday's semifinal. However, the Ads lost only 9-8 to Southwestern on April 20.

South Laurel has won 17 straight

Boyle, which beat Garrard 4-3 April 27, and Garrard landed in the bracket with South Laurel, which has won 17 straight games. South beat Boyle 14-2 and 11-0 during the season. However, it did lose 4-3 to Pulaski County and won only 3-2 over Russell County in eight innings on April 6.

Don't forget, too, that Boyle beat Danville twice during the season before the Admirals rallied to win the 45th District Tournament.

"With North Laurel being out, everybody has a shot. Or at least everybody should feel that way," Danville coach Jerry Perry said. "North had not been playing well at the end of the season, but everybody still knew they were the team to beat. Now we all have to feel like we have a chance."

While Perry was happy not to draw Pulaski Southwestern, he warned that Mercer might be the region's most improved team. The Scotties lost only 2-0 to Garrard in the 46th District Tournament championship game to back up Perry's point.

"We got a little bit better draw than we have the past few years when we always drew a team from the 48th District," Perry said. "But we still have to play. I know Mercer has to feel like it has a great chance to beat us."

Still, in past years teams could seldom hope for more than maybe winning one game before running into unbeatable North Laurel. Now all eight teams in the tournament have to feel if they survive the opening round, they have a legitimate chance to win a semifinal game. And if they do, North Laurel will not be waiting to end the party in the title game this year.

Dynasties can be fun. Just ask the Boyle County football team. But as dominating as North Laurel's softball run has been, having a new regional champion this year is going to do far more for the sport than another North title could have ever done.

"We're excited, but so is everybody else," Perry said. "As soon as North Laurel got beat, it changed everything about the regional."

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