The 2017 4th Region Softball post-season was one for the books. Bad blood, close games, and incredible finishes highlighted the four-week span, and the outpour of support from the fans of all different teams was one-of-a-kind.
While some teams looked for vengeance against other region foes, one team came out on top for the second consecutive season.
But let’s not jump to conclusions just yet.
We begin with the Region 4 Tournament, which featured Franklin-Simpson and Logan County from the 13th District, South Warren and Warren East from the 14th, Barren County and Allen County-Scottsville from the 15th, and Russell County and Cumberland County from the 16th.
The tournament started out with South Warren’s 11-0 rout of Russell County and Allen County-Scottsville’s 9-1 victory over Franklin-Simpson.
The evening session, though, seemed to bring the most excitement.
For the 5 p.m. game, Warren East took down Cumberland County, 15-0, as sophomore pitcher Katie Gardner pitched maybe the fastest perfect game we will ever see. Gardner faced nine batters total, and struck out every one of them while also powering the offense with a monster home run into the outfield parking structure as the Lady Raiders won the game in three innings.
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Barren County's Jordan Crist tosses a pitch in the 2017 Region 4 Tournament.[/caption]
In the 7 p.m. matchup, Barren County eased past Logan County, 3-0, as Trojannette pitcher Jordan Crist pitched a great game to advace in the tournament.
The next day, South Warren topped Allen County-Scottsville 5-1 to earn a spot in their third consecutive 4th Region title game, while Warren East cruised by Barren County 11-0 to set a matchup for the ages for the Region 4 crown.
The Lady Raiders beat the Lady Spartans just a week earlier in the 14th District title game after being put out in the first round of the district tournament in 2016, and now they were playing for a chance to return to the state tournament for the first time since 2015.
East led the championship game most of the way, until WKU-commit Shelby Nunn came up to the plate with two outs in the bottom of the ninth inning, her South Warren team down 2-1.
Facing her last strike, the senior pitcher hit two-run RBI just past the glove of the second baseman and the Lady Spartans won the 4th Region crown 3-2 in walk-off fashion while the Lady Raiders looked on in disbelief.
“I didn’t even see the winning run come in,” said Nunn after the game. “I just heard all of the noise and looked at the scoreboard and thought ‘oh my gosh, we just won the game.’”
If you were to ask my opinion, it was definitely worth the hour-and-a-half travel from my Henderson, Kentucky home to cover that game. It was one of the most amazing finishes I have been able to witness and it could not have come in a more sought-about matchup.
However, the Lady Spartans season was not over yet.
With the win, South Warren earned a trip to the KHSAA State Fast Pitch Softball Tournament where they were pitted against the neighboring 5th Region Champions, Central Hardin.
The Lady Spartans started off their state tournament run with an 8-3 win over the Lady Bruins, featuring five seventh inning runs to pull away and advance to take on Alabama-commit pitcher Montana Fouts and East Carter in the second round of the winners’ bracket the next morning.
In a game in which they struggled with the golden arm of Fouts all morning, South Warren survived a 1-0 barnburner to the Lady Raiders, again in walk-off fashion with Katie Conley’s steal of home in eight innings.
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South Warren's Bailee Collins connects on a pitch against Louisville Male in the 2017 KHSAA Fast Pitch State Tournament. The Lady Spartans finished third place in the tournament.[/caption]
The Lady Spartans dropped a 9-2 decision to Louisville Male later in the day before turning right around and powering through a 14-inning marathon to beat Mercy Academy 2-0 in the consolation bracket.
The next morning, South Warren topped Owensboro Catholic 6-5 in another close battle before falling again to Male in the championship round of the consolation bracket, ending their postseason run with a third-place finish in the state tournament.
South Warren head coach Chris Riggs, who resigned as head coach of the Lady Spartans shortly after the tournament, had nothing but praise for his resilient team.
“They played their hearts out all season long,” said Riggs. “They always fought back when they were down instead of lowering their heads. I couldn’t be more thankful and more fortunate to be able to coach this bunch.”