Warren East avenges District Tournament loss to Greenwood

Lady Raiders explode early to cruise to district title game

After seeing their district and region hopes halted by Greenwood in the first round of the 14th District Tournament last season, Warren East had a sour taste in their mouths.

That showed on Tuesday night, as the Lady Raiders were bent on getting revenge and most certainly did just that, grabbing an early lead and firing on all cylinders to rout the Lady Gators 11-0.

“We’ve talked a lot about that game last year within the group,” said Warren East head coach Phillip McKinney. “We still had a bad taste in our mouths. We thought that we had a good chance to get to the regional finals last season and it just didn’t work out.”

The hot bats of the Lady Raiders were to thank for an early 6-0 lead.

[caption id="attachment_10789" align="alignright" width="300"]Rimel Greenwood's GraceAnn Rimel tosses a pitch in the first inning of the Lady Gators 11-0 loss to Warren East in the 14th District Tournament Semifinal./Photo by Paul Gray.[/caption]

WKU commit Kendall Smith started off the scoring in the bottom of the first with a leadoff home run to give East a 1-0 lead, and it was all Lady Raiders from there.

After an error and two walks, Katie Gardner doubled to left field to bring in Nicki Gibbs and Jeyda Bays, expanding the lead to 3-0.

East added three more runs in the inning on a Hailey Hymer double and a Gibbs walk with the bases loaded before Greenwood finally got out of the first inning on a fielder’s choice, trailing the Lady Raiders 6-0.

“I knew we were going to have good at-bats. We ran the bases hard and were fortunate enough to score a few runs there in the first inning to kind of get everything settled in.”

From there, both teams traded defensive punches before adding four more runs on hits by Bays and Sheridan Akins and another Greenwood error.

Throughout the game, excellent pitching by the sophomore Gardner, who struck out 10 batters on the night and pitched a three-hit shutout, kept the Lady Gators at bay.

“To come out and get this win this year is amazing,” said Gardner. “I couldn’t have done it without our great hitting today. It reminds me that I’m not the only person out there.”

East added another insurance run in the bottom of the fourth on a single by Gibbs before the mercy rule went into effect after the top of the fifth inning.

For Gardner, this win meant a lot to her but meant a whole lot more to some of her teammates.

[caption id="attachment_10790" align="alignleft" width="239"]McKinney Warren East head coach Phillip McKinney and senior Kendall Smith celebrate after Smith hits a leadoff solo home run in the first inning in Warren East's 11-0 win over Greenwood in the 14th District Tournament Semifinal./Photo by Paul Gray.[/caption]

“It means a lot to me that (the seniors) can continue playing,” she said. “Only one of them (Kendall Smith) is going to play college softball, so it’s important to keep playing as long as they can.

“It means a lot for us to get back to this point. We know that we are automatically in regionals now even if we do end up coming up short in the district championship.”

Warren East laid down 10 hits on the evening including two apiece from Gibbs and Bays. Greenwood mustered three hits on the evening from Alex Grubbs, Taylor Campbell, and Katelyn Smith.

With the win, the Lady Raiders advance to Thursday evening’s 14th District Championship game against South Warren, who defeated Bowling Green 11-0 to advance to the title game.

“We’re excited for the opportunity to be playing in this game,” said McKinney. “They know us and we know them, that’s about all I can tell you.”