Next week will kick off the girls high school softball postseason tournaments. For the first time since high school softball existence, two local teams should be in the regional tournament. Yes, the Laurel County schools are no longer in the same districts and the local schools now play in two different districts.

Because Pulaski and Somerset play each other in the opening round of the 47 District tourney, one of those local schools will be in the regional tournament.

And no, the Lady Warriors are not guaranteed an automatic bid into to the regional tournament, but their district first round opponent, McCreary Central, lost to them twice by a score of 11-1, 10-0. So do the math.

Southwestern are Regional favorites

Wow, what a season the Southwestern Lady Warriors have had this year. They have a 27-2 record and a perfect 6-0 district record. They have shutout seven of their opponents throughout the year and have outscored their opponents 234 to 53.

Now lets take a brief moment to look at the 48th District tournament match-ups. Southwestern has outscored their district opponents 76-3. Out of the six district games Southwestern has played, five of them have ended by the “10-run mercy rule”.

Southwestern beat the number two-seed team, Wayne County, 10-0 in their first match-up. Lady Warrior pitchers Jessica Woodall and Shelby Kosmecki combined for a no-hitter in that game and the Lady Cardinals never put the out of the infield in the few times they did put a bat on the ball.

Hello, is this Foster Trophy? Yeah, go ahead and put Southwestern’s name of the District 48 softball championship trophy.

Seriously, the Lady Warriors will have to keep their focus during the district tournament and not look ahead to the regional and state tournaments. But if they play their usual Lady warrior ball — the district crown is their for the taking.

Ironically, the Lady Warriors worst defeat came from their cross-town rivals, Pulaski County earlier in the season during a weekend tournament. But since that last loss to the Lady Maroons on April 15, Southwestern has won their last 11 games in a row and the Lady Maroons have lost six of their last 17 games. Southwestern’s only other loss was to Danville on April Fool’s Day

A huge part of the Lady Warriors’ success is the pitching of senior Jessica Woodall. When Woody is on the mound, Southwestern is hard to beat. Everyone in the region, other than Pulaski, has found that out the hard way.

Woodall is considered on of the pest hurlers in the state and was recently named a finalist in the Miss Kentucky baseball Player of the Year award.

Not only is Southwestern blessed with one of the best pitchers in the state, but they have two of the top closers in the state with Shelby Kosmecki and Sarah Hranicky. Other than Pulaski’s 9-0 drubbing of the Lady Warriors back in April, no one else has scored more than three runs on them in their last 11 games.

So defense is not a problem for the Lady Warriors, and neither is offense with the likes of Jasi Flynn, Jessica Woodall and Jessica Girdler. Both Woodall and Girdler hit with consistency, while Flynn hits for power.

Oddly enough, I think Southwestern has a clear path to the state tournament as long as they don’t meet up with Pulaski County.

The Ups and Downs of the Lady Maroons

Pulaski County has had their shares of ups and downs this season.

The ups included a near miss upset win over sixth ranked North Laurel as the Lady Maroons fell 1-0 in a nail-bitter and then a 9-0 thrashing of Southwestern. In those two games, Pulaski looked like a state-ranked team with strong pitching by Jessica Randolph and clutch hitting by MacKenzie Tilley, Randolph, and Cassandra Foster.

The lows have included a 6-5 loss to district rivals Somerset and a then back-to-back drubbings by the two Laurel County teams recently.

Pulaski could just as easily go all the way to the state as any other team in the area. They have two solid pitchers in Jessica Randolph and Cassandra Foster. Offensively, Foster, Tilley, Foster and Miranda Begley can hit with the best of them and these four can probably hit Southwestern’s Woodall better than anyone.

But against pitchers with less speed than Woodall, these same Lady Maroon hitters sometimes struggle.

Pulaski has good hitters all the way down the line, but they lose some speed on the base paths in the bottom part of the batting order.

Another big question mark for the Lady Maroons is the health of their ace pitcher Jessica Randolph. A slight injury to her wrist has affected her pitching some in the last couple of games and she needs to be near 100 percent for the Lady Maroons to make a state tourney run.

Luckily, for Pulaski coach Scott Taylor, Foster is just as effective on the mound as Randolph. Foster does not overpower the batters as much as Randolph might, but very few batters can hit Foster deep.

In an ideal world, Pulaski and Southwestern would meet in the finals of the regional championship for a game to be remembered by all.

Somerset could be a spoiler

Just as Pulaski may be Southwestern’s nemesis, Somerset could well be Pulaski’s’ ‘kryptonite’.

On paper Somerset should have never beat Pulaski, but they did.

And when they did, they rose to new levels going from a three-game losing streak to a five-game win streak.

But more importantly, Somerset knows they have the ability to beat Pulaski, and Pulaski knows that Somerset could beat them again.

But for all this to happen, Somerset must be able to hit the ball.

Somerset freshman pitcher Alianne Tilley has developed into a solid performer on the mound. She is a smart pitcher, and with the help of her Lady Jumper defense, she can contain good teams to only a few runs.

For Somerset to get past Pulaski, they will have to get hits from their top hitters like Caitlin Talbott, Caiti Cowan and Polly West. If Somerset can put the ball in play with the pressure of tournament play, good things can happen for the Lady Jumpers.

Win or lose in the district, Somerset has had a breakthrough year for the program. Their upset win over Pulaski was huge and it took them from being a bottom of the list program to a legitimate contender to get into the regional tournament. The new district alignment has given the Somerset softball team a more balanced group of competitors. And Somerset could very well be on the top of the District 47 heap in the near future.

But more importantly, the Somerset softball program will need support from their own school administration in upgraded facilities and support.

In the past two years, Somerset High has upgraded their boys’ baseball field facilities twice and did a major renovation of their basketball and volleyball gymnasium — while the softball field still has two porta potties for restroom facilities and the snackbar is on wheels located out in the parking lot some 200 yards from the bleachers.

For every successful athletic program in the state of Kentucky, you will always find equally superior facilities.

East Jessamine and West Jessamine have played very few 12th Region teams outside the 46 District and are both threats to challenge for the regional title. Danville beat both Southwestern and Pulaski earlier in the season and has a chance to go all the way to the state tourney. Garrard County, Rockcastle County and Boyle County will challenge, as well.

This postseason softball district and regional tournaments should be exciting for the three teams in the county. All three teams have had successful seasons already and each team have the potential this year to set new benchmarks for their respective programs.

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