This one took a full game unlike last year’s run-ruling at the Bamboo Gardens.
But the same team left victorious. The 33rd District runner-up Cooper Jaguars (20-13) used a four-run fifth inning to beat the host and 35th District champion Notre Dame Pandas, 7-3 in the 9th Region softball quarterfinals. Cooper plays at Highlands on Saturday at 2 p.m. in the semis.
The two starting pitchers threw complete games. Cooper senior Kendall Blau (16-8) struck out five and walked two. Notre Dame sophomore Abby Turnpaugh (13-7) struck out three and walked two.
Both teams had 27 at-bats. Cooper smacked eight compared to six for Notre Dame. Both teams committed two errors leading to two unearned runs each.
“In this game, we didn’t play as tight defense as we usually do,” said Rusty Scott, Cooper head coach. “We had a couple close plays that we allowed to not go our way. But hat’s off to (Notre Dame). You have to think about where they came from last year to this year. Notre Dame’s staff did a good job getting this team ready to play. They had a great season. It’s a tough draw for both of us to have to play this round.”
The Jaguars had the game’s lone extra-base hit in that key fifth inning. After Blau singled with one out and freshman Alyssa McClintock ran for her, senior second baseman Emily Schmeltz smacked a two-run home run for her team-high 12th of the season to put Cooper up 5-1.
“I knew my teammates were going to get on and I knew early in the count, I was going to look for a ball that I could drive,” Schmeltz said. “So getting a perfect pitch 0-2 helped me out a lot. I think about my swing, how to adjust to those pitches, what the pitcher is throwing and things like that.”
Schmeltz and Blau both finished 2-for-4 to lead Cooper offensively. Schmeltz also scored twice.
The Jaguars did not stop there. Freshman catcher Kat Furnish singled and senior third baseman Ashley Chaney drew a walk to move her to second before junior designated player Maddie Childress sacrifice bunted them up one base. Sophomore first baseman Grace Cline then came through with a clutch two-run single to put Cooper up 7-1.
“A lot of times, home runs end innings,” Scott said. “But we were able to capitalize and keep going. It was good to get a little rally after that.”
Cline also had three putouts at first base. She did well moving to different parts of the field around there including chasing foul balls.
“I feel like your head always has to be on a swivel,” Cline said. “You always have to be looking for the next play like where can I cover here? Where can I cover here? It’s all a mental game.”
Notre Dame also had two players with multi-hit games. Senior left fielder Tori Danneman went 2-for-4 and scored twice with sophomore shortstop Ava Auberger going 2-for-3.
The Jaguars scored twice right out of the gate and never relinquished that first inning lead at 2-0. Junior shortstop Ava Scott and Blau led off with singles. Schmeltz then hit into an unassisted fielder’s choice forcing McClintock going to second and moving Scott to third. Furnish then reached on a Panda error, scoring Scott and Schmeltz before Notre Dame coaxed a double play to get out of the inning.
“We just had one or two unfortunate plays that extended that lead for them a bit,” said Joe Stephenson, Notre Dame head coach. “That happens in softball and baseball. They are a very fundamentally sound defensive team. They put the ball in play and we have to make those plays on defense.”
Notre Dame cut the lead to 2-1 in the bottom of the third. With two out, Danneman singled and stole second before scoring when eighth grade third baseman Addie Zinser reached on a Cooper error.
But Cooper responded with one in the top of the fourth. Chaney walked and moved to second when Childress singled. Chaney then scored on the other Pandas error to put Cooper up 3-1.
The Pandas scored twice in the bottom of the fifth to make the final score. With one out, senior second baseman Kayla Northcutt walked and took second on a wild pitch. Danneman then singled her to third and stole second before scoring when Zinser singled. Danneman came home on a Cooper error on the play.
Notre Dame graduates three seniors in Danneman, Northcutt and Rachel Finke. The three helped the Pandas continue their district championship streak to 10 in a row.
“We just had super senior leadership this year,” Stephenson said. “We’re still young in spots. There was no drama. They were always upbeat, willing to help each other and just fantastic kids. It’s a fantastic program and I’m glad I’m part of it.”
Notre Dame last won a region tournament game two years ago defeating Villa Madonna, 15-0 in four innings before losing 8-2 to Boone County in the region semifinals. The Pandas last won the region in 2017.
Highlands 18, Villa Madonna 0 (3 innings)
The five-time 36th District champion Bluebirds (25-8-1) quickly took care of the 34th runner-up Vikings (13-12) to advance to the region semifinals for the second straight year. They will play host to Cooper on Saturday at 2 p.m.
Highlands took advantage of 13 walks and batted .455 (5 for 11) overall. The Bluebirds also stole 10 bases. Freshmen Morgan Pompilio and Payton Brown stole three bases each. Senior Kennedy Baioni had two runs batted in with eighth grader Allie Meyers tripling and stealing two bases and senior Carly Cramer adding a double.
Baioni pitched one inning to earn the win striking out three and walking one. Freshman Kaitlyn Dixon pitched the next two innings striking out five.
Villa Madonna graduates one senior completing Anthony Fields’ first season as head coach, Kathryn McLagan.
8th Semifinal at University of Louisville
Woodford County 4, Simon Kenton 1
The Pioneers (16-16) outhit the Yellow Jackets (25-9), 9-6. But they could not capitalize on their opportunities including loading the bases with no out in the top of the third and scoring no runs.
Freshman first baseman Adreena Barton went 3-for-3 with a double and one RBI for the Pioneers and junior catcher Emilie Young went 3-for -4. Junior second baseman Addison Johnson added a double and scored Simon Kenton’s lone run.
Junior Landrey Dance (10-10) pitched a complete game for the Pioneers. She struck out three and walked two allowing three earned runs as Simon Kenton committed one error behind her.
The Pioneers graduate just one senior. That is left fielder Kaylee Korros.
Simon Kenton still won its first region tournament game since 2017.
10th Semifinal at Bourbon County
Harrison County 11, Campbell County 5
The Fillies (30-7) scored five times in the bottom of the first then added three in the second to build an 8-1 lead and never look back advancing back to the region championship game in the first region semifinal appearance for the Camels (20-6) since 2019.
The Camels batted .300 (9-for-30) overall against Harrison County freshman pitcher Bella Persinger (24-6) striking out twice and drawing three walks. But the Fillies batted .400 (12-for-30) overall with three doubles and two home runs.
Senior first baseman Emily Nadeau went 2-for-4 belting a home run, double to go with three RBI and scored once. Sophomore left fielder Jayci Kremer went 3-for-4 with one RBI and freshman shortstop Sam Perry went 2-for-4 scoring once. Freshman Hope Hamilton scored twice.
Campbell County used three pitchers in seniors Paige Stewart, Alex Leicht then Hamilton. They combined to strike out one and walk five. Hamilton did not allow any runs in two innings pitched.
The Camels graduate four seniors in Nadeau, Stewart, Leicht and catcher Izzy Whisman. They helped Campbell County continue their run of six straight 37th District championships.