SHIVELY – There are a lot of different ways that softball games can be decided.
On Saturday, the Bullitt East Lady Chargers may have found the most frustrating way to lose a softball game when they were beaten by Butler 5-2 in an opening round game of the Sixth Region Tournament.
The setback brought to an end what had been a promising season for the young team. The Lady Chargers had been ranked second in the Sixth Region for much of the season and had beaten top-ranked Mercy during the year.
However, the Jaguars had turned the table on Bullitt East in the 24th District championship game, scoring five times in the fifth inning on the way to a 7-5 win.
Because of that, Bullitt East had to go on the road to start the Sixth Region Tournament. A nasty draw sent them to Butler, the only Sixth Region team that had beaten them during the regular season, a 13-12 setback April 13 on the same field.
Some teams have hitters and some have bunters. Apparently, the Bearettes have only bunters. In Saturday’s game, which was delayed two hours because of early morning rain, Butler did not hit the ball out of the infield. The three Bullitt East outfielders never touched the ball in the game.
Knowing that, Butler has a soft infield with a lot of sand around home plate. The Bearettes were putting the ball down in spots that good college catchers and infielders couldn’t have handled.
That made it very frustrating. Butler won the game despite the fact that Bullitt East had seven hits to just four for the home team.
Bullitt East got a two-run home run from senior Payton Bibb in the seventh inning. Two other drives by the Lady Chargers were hauled in right at the fence. Bullitt East hit the ball harder and longer, but had nothing to show for it.
Butler scored a run in the bottom of the third to open the scoring. That run scored on a fielder’s choice on a suicide squeeze that the Lady Chargers fielded cleanly, but had no other option than for pitcher Mackenzie Mingus to get the out at first base.
The game then got away from the Lady Chargers in the fifth inning, the same inning as had been the case in the district loss to Mercy.
The inning started when Butler’s Kaylee Brooks laid a bunt down and beat the throw from catcher Alivia Cooper to first. The Bearettes bunted again, this time Kiera Robbins was out at first, but Brooks moved to second. Mingus then walked Payton Russell on a full-count pitch. Both runners then moved up on a passed ball with Natalie Frye at the plate. Frye then walked on a full-count to load the bases.
Butler then went back to bunting. Nina Camara bunted the ball up the first base line and Bibb had no play and just had to hold the ball as the run scored.
As he had done numerous times during the season, Bullitt East head coach Bruce Pierce brought in Mollie Johnston to pitch. The coach admitted later that he was just looking for some type of change of pace to alter the momentum of the game even with Mingus pitching well.
Butler’s Delaney Hilpp did swing away and her ground ball was fielded by shortstop Kim Perkins, but she could not get the tag on Frye as another run scored. Alysa Malone, the starting pitcher for the Bearettes, then hit the ball hard and Perkins could not field it cleanly as another run scored.
Bullitt East did get the second out when Courtney Bass fielded a grounder and threw home to get the out. However, Johnston then walked Chloe Fint to plate the fifth run of the game. The inning finally ended on a strikeout.
The Lady Chargers did try to mount a late rally. After an out to start the top of the seventh, Taylor Pierce singled to right field. That brought Bibb to the plate and she crushed the ball well over the fence in left field.
Following the second out of the inning, Bullitt East got back-to-back singles from pinch-hitter Katlyn McDonald and then Perkins at the top of the line-up. That brought the tying run to the plate, but the game ended with Cooper flying out to centerfield.
Pierce was not expecting as high-scoring a game as the first meeting because he felt both teams had gotten better heading into the post-season.
“Surprised? No,” the coach said after the game. “I knew they two teams would be competitive. We hit the ball but we lifted it and you can’t do that against a pitcher like that. She had a good pitching pate for a team like us.
“I don’t think it was confusing,” Pierce added. “We were hitting her pitch. We wanted to move up (in the batter’s box). She was not as fast, but the pitch was dropping.”
Mingus pitched one out into the fifth inning for the Lady Chargers. She allowed the four hits and all four of the runs on her watch were earned. Johnston pitched the rest of the way and did not give up a hit while striking out two.
Malone pitched all seven innings for the Bearettes, throwing 96 pitches. She did give up seven hits and both of the runs were earned. She did strike out three and only walked one.
Bullitt East finished the season with a 20-10 record. The two only loses two seniors – Kim Perkins and Payton Bibb. The team’s top three pitchers this season were each freshmen. In the district final, the first five batters in the lineup with freshmen and sophomores and the three home runs hit in that game were all by freshmen and sophomores.
“We have a very young team,” Pierce said. “We’re very talented. Hopefully, we learn from this so we know what it will take in the future.”
Butler advanced to the Sixth Region semifinals where they defeated defending champion Holy Cross on Monday by a 5-3 score. The Bearettes played Mercy in the championship game on Tuesday.