Friday NKY HS roundup: Cooper softball bests Dixie Heights in battle of 9th Region contenders

G. Michael Graham
G. Michael Graham
Mike Graham covers sports for LINK nky

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This regular season game might not mean anything if the two softball teams meet again in the 9th Region Tournament in a few weeks.

But like any team, it gave them an idea of what works and does not work against the opponent. The host Cooper Jaguars (16-8) and Dixie Heights Colonels (14-12) threw their aces leaving few secrets between the two if any.

The biggest lesson they both learned is the importance of taking advantage of opportunities offensively when they come. Cooper did a better job of that recording a 5-3 region win. The Jaguars have won three in a row in the series.

“I told them this is what it’s going to look like from here on out against teams like this,” said Rusty Scott, Cooper head coach. “Dixie is a solid team. Our district games could be one, two-run games. We have to fight and grind them out. We didn’t make too many mistakes in the field. Overall, it worked out well for us. We had some big hits as well.”

Cooper senior Kendall Blau (12-6) and Dixie Heights junior Riley Hopkins (7-8) pitched complete games. Blau struck out five and walked one with Hopkins striking out eight and walking none.

Behind them, Cooper made three errors and Dixie Heights had two. Both teams scored two unearned runs off those errors.

At the plate, Cooper batted slightly better at .261 (6 for 23) overall compared to .231 (6 for 26) for Dixie Heights. But the Jaguars pounded out three extra-base hits and the Colonels had just one when eighth grade third baseman Ava Niemer blooped a double to right in the top of the second.

“We just have to have better selection at the plate,” said Sarah Osborne, Dixie Heights head coach. “That’s what we told our girls. We’re starting to press at the plate. Like what my assistant Kristin (Elfers) said, when we’re up, we can go up unpacking. But when we’re down, we have to be more selective, patient and find a pitch that we need to come up with the big hit in big situations. We didn’t do that (Friday).”

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Cooper junior shortstop Ava Scott recorded the game’s lone multi-hit performance going 2 for 3 with a double that plated one and scored another. Scott doubled in senior third baseman Ashley Chaney after Chaney reached on an error on a pop up then took second on a passed ball to put Cooper up 4-1 in the bottom of the second.

Ava Scott started the three-run bottom of the first for Cooper with a single and Blau sacrifice bunted her to second. Ava Scott then stole third and scored when senior second baseman Emily Schmeltz singled her home. With two out, freshman catcher Kat Furnish lined one to the wall for a double scoring Schmeltz. Furnish took third when Dixie Heights tried to throw out Schmeltz at home. A throwing error allowed Furnish to score putting the Jaguars up 3-1.

Dixie Heights scored the game’s first run in the top of the first when senior shortstop Ella Steczynski walked and eighth grade second baseman Haley Waters bunted her to second. With two out, junior first baseman Taylor Ingram singled her home to give the Colonels their lone lead at 1-0.

Dixie Heights scored twice in the top of the third to trim the lead to 4-3. Waters singled to lead off. Then with one out, Ingram lined one to right that Cooper right fielder Kailey Milburn missed and sped all the way to the wall allowing Waters to score and Ingram make it all the way to third base. Hopkins singled Ingram home.

“I told the girls Dixie Heights is a statement game for any team that plays us,” Osborne said. “People bring their best against us so if we don’t bring our best, (wins) are not going to happen. That’s the way it is.”

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But Milburn responded in a big way in the bottom of the third helping the Jaguars earn one of those runs back. Milburn belted the first pitch from Hopkins over the wall in center field for a solo home run marking her second of the season to make the final score.

“It gave us that lead that we needed to settle down and just make plays in the field that we needed to make,” Milburn said. “I played with (Hopkins) when I was little so it was nice to hit a home run off her. She just likes those rise balls. It’s tough to hit those rise balls.”

Both pitchers and defenses buckled down after that for the most part. Blau retired the side in the fourth, sixth and seventh innings with Hopkins allowing just one base runner retiring the side in the fourth and sixth innings.

“As long as we’re hitting our spots, our defense typically plays pretty clean,” Coach Scott said. “If we can go up a few runs early, as long as we stay tight, we do alright.”

Dixie Heights did put the tying runs on base in the top of the fifth with one out. Junior center fielder Skylar Mitchell singled and took second when Ingram reached on a Cooper error. But after a line out, Blau coaxed Dixie Heights freshman catcher Sydney Schumacher into grounding into a fielder’s choice to end the threat.

Both teams made web gems to end innings defensively. Ava Scott made a nice grab running into shallow left to grab the ball off the bat of Dixie Heights freshman left fielder Taylor Dawalt to end the sixth and Dixie Heights junior Carly Waters made a nice diving grab snagging a line drive off the bat of Cooper left fielder Ainsley Scroggie to end the third inning.

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“I think our defense has been stepping it up and just really doing it for us this season,” Chaney said. “You could get a ball smoked at you anytime so you always have to be ready.”

Cooper plays host to Tates Creek (10-14) on Saturday at Noon. Dixie Heights plays host to Ryle (14-6) at 5:30 p.m. on Wednesday.

Dixie Heights junior pitcher Riley Hopkins fires to the plate. Hopkins struck out eight in the loss. Photo by G. Michael Graham | LINK nky


Simon Kenton 6, Henry County 3

The host Pioneers (13-12) have followed up a six-game losing streak with two wins in a row knocking off a Ladycats team (13-8) that had won eight of nine entering the game.

Simon Kenton junior pitcher Landey Dance (7-7) pitched a complete game striking out nine, walking two and allowing five hits and three earned runs. The Pioneers made no errors behind her.

The Pioneers batted .286 (8 for 28) overall. Junior Emilie Young led the way going 3 for 4 with a double and RBI. Freshman first baseman Adreena Barton and eighth grade shortstop Taylor Jones drove in two each with seventh grade pinch runner Cara Swope scoring three runs.

Simon Kenton plays at Collins (10-14) on Saturday.

Other Softball Scores

Holy Cross 15, Paris 14

Scott 21, Holmes 0 (3 innings)

Williamstown 13, Bellevue 10

Dayton 5, Villa Madonna 1

Harrison County 11, Conner 0 (5 innings)

Lewis County 12, Campbell County 2 (6 innings)

Ludlow 20, Newport 4 (3 innings)

Notre Dame 15, St. Henry 0 (3 innings)

Ryle 11, Tates Creek 5

Baseball Scores

Ryle 10, Bryan Station 0 (6 innings)

Campbell County 15, Tates Creek 11

Shelby County 3, Conner 1

Corbin 13, Cooper 7

Holy Cross 22, Boone County 10

Covington Latin 8, Dayton 6

Dixie Heights 9, Ludlow 1

Dixie Heights 4, Hazard 3

Lloyd Memorial 11, Gallatin County 4

Scott 3, Carroll County 2

St. Henry 7, South Oldham 3

South Oldham 7, St. Henry 1

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