OWENSBORO — The Boyle County softball team climbed to unprecedented heights this weekend.
The Rebels finished third in their first trip to the Rawlings/KHSAA State Softball Tournament, breezeing through their first three games Thursday and Friday before losing twice Saturday.
Boyle’s run in the double-elimination tournament ended in the consolation bracket finals with a 3-2 loss to Lone Oak, which pushed across a run in the bottom of the seventh inning after the Rebels had tied the game in the top of the inning.
“I thought we’d make it deep with our draw and everything, but I never thought we’d get that far,” Boyle pitcher first-baseman KK Davis said after the team returned to Danville.
Boyle (33-13) was one of two undefeated teams remaining in the 16-team field when play began Saturday morning, and eight of the 10 ranked teams had fallen by the wayside before the Rebels were eliminated.
“We came out of the blue. We were a no-name, we were a Cinderella, and sometimes Cinderella doesn’t make it to the championship game, but they’re proud of their achievement, and they should be,” Boyle coach Brian Deem said.
Davis and shortstop Lauren Richards were named to the all-tournament team from Boyle, which went deeper into the tournament than any 12th Region team had before. Richards batted a team-high .533 in the tournament, and Davis hit .375 with four doubles and pitched 10 innings without allowing an earned run.
“Winning the first game was definitely key, and then after that we figured, ‘Why not? Why not us?’” Richards said.
Richards said Boyle’s pitching was strong throughout the weekend — pitchers Davis, Elysse Petrie and Hannah Miniard each had one of the three wins — and Davis said other areas of the Rebels’ game were working just as well.
“We just had the defense and the offense to cover everything,” Davis said. “We knew our defense was solid, and we just let our bats come into play and killed them.”
Boyle was knocked out of the winners’ bracket with an 8-0 loss to No. 4 Mercy, and its dream season ended when No. 17 Lone Oak scored an unearned run in the bottom of the seventh inning.
“It was disappointing. It was a heartbreaking loss, but to be able to do what we did during this tournament, our girls are excited, and they’re proud of their accomplishment,” Deem said.
Davis, one of the team’s two seniors, said the state tournament run was everything she could have hoped for.
“The fact that we made third place in the state when we weren’t even supposed to make it to state is huge,” she said. “We were a huge underdog, and it was like, ‘OK, Boyle County, let’s run through ’em, it’s going to be easy,’ and then we beat them. That was huge for us.”
Boyle trailed Lone Oak 2-1 and was down to its final out in the top of the seventh when Richards drove a triple into right field that scored Amy Woolum, who had reached base on an error and was bunted to second by pinch-hitter Petrie.
Kelsee Henson led off the bottom of the inning with a double to left-center field, and Jacqueline Roof’s sacrifice bunt resulted in a throwing error that allowed Henson to score the winning run for the Purple Flash (40-6).
Hannah Miniard, who had a 1.29 earned-run average in 16 1/3 innings in the tournament, took the loss for Boyle after allowing eight hits but only one earned run. The Rebels committed three errors.
Miniard (11-5), who struck out six batters without a walk, staked herself to a 1-0 lead by scoring in the top of the first inning when she singled to right field drive in Heather Hasty, who had reached on a one-out double to center.
But the Rebels had only one other hit, a double by Davis, in innings two through six against Lone Oak pitcher Jenny Chapman, who allowed one earned run on four hits.
The Purple Flash tied the game in the third inning thanks to two Boyle errors, then took a 2-1 lead in the fifth on consecutive doubles by Whitney Aspery and Alex Sohl.
Boyle stranded runners in scoring position in the fifth and six innings. Richards reached on a two-out error and stole second base in the fifth before a fielder’s choice ended the inning, and pinch-runner Carmen Hart was left at second base after Davis’ two-out double in the sixth.
Boyle outscored its opponents 19-4 in its three wins Thursday and Friday, but the Rebels couldn’t manage a single run and had only two hits in their Saturday morning loss to Mercy (36-8), which later defeated Lone Oak 7-2 in the championship game.
Woolum singled to right field to lead off the third inning but was stranded at third base, and Richards had an infield single in the fifth after Woolum reached on a two-out error, but they were left at first and third when the inning ended.
Mercy pitcher J.J. Francis saw one Boyle runner reach against her on an error in the first inning, and Haley Twyman took over from there, coming on in the second inning and striking out nine of the 22 batters she faced without a walk.
Francis got the win after the Jaguars scored four times in the first inning off Miniard, who allowed one earned run and five unearned runs on five hits in two innings.
Petrie allowed two runs on five hits in two innings, and Davis pitched three scoreless innings. Mercy led 6-0 after 1 1/2 innings and scored twice more in the fifth.
Boyle’s team batting average ranked 11th among the 16 teams at the start of the tournament, but the Rebels averaged seven hits per game.
“We had some timely hits all weekend long ... and our defense played fantastic the first three games,” Deem said.