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Lady Lakers runners-up in Classic
In April 14 Issue

The Russell County Lady Laker softball team lost three games during opening pool play in the Lady Laker Classic on Friday but roared back Saturday in single elimination play, defeating Clinton County and Garrard County to advance to the championship game with Butler County before eventually falling 5-0.  

With the strong run Saturday, the Lady Lakers, 3-9 on the season, finished as runners-up for the tournament, a big improvement from the team's previous games this season.

"This weekend at the Lady Laker Classic, I feel like we had a lot of ups and downs," said Lady Laker Coach Stephanie McGowan. "We started off Friday morning against Adair County and fell 13-1. Immediately after, we played a tough Garrard County team and fell 10-0 in the 6th inning. After that second loss, Asst Coach Jamie (Brumley) and I gathered the team in left field and we had a conversation about the way we had played those two games."

 McGowan said as a whole, the team and coaches didn't feel as if they were playing to the best of their ability.

"We didn't feel like we were being aggressive enough in the field or at the plate," she said. "After a long discussion, we sent the girls to figure some things out on their own before the next game was played. "

For the third and final game on Friday, the Lady Lakers played Butler County, a top 20 team and has a pitcher that has already committed to Murray State, and fell 7-0.

"We didn't win the game, but we came out with improvements on things that we were lacking in the first two games, so we at least had something to build off of," McGowan said.

With a record of 0-3, the Lady Lakers knew they would be facing a top team for Saturday's single elimination. Upon conclusion of Friday's games, Russell County found that we were going to be put against Clinton County who had went 2-0 and a team the Lady Lakers have struggled against recently.

"We started the Clinton game off by scoring two runs in the first inning," she said. "Clinton answered back in the second and took advantage of several of our errors and scored eight runs. The girls came into the 3rd inning disappointed in their defensive effort and got one of those runs back. The 4th and 5th came and went and neither team scored. When our girls came into hit in the 6th inning, we told them they can't wait until the last inning to pull everything together. We have to let that "one inning" go that we gave to them and get one of our own. They owed that to Abby Adams who had been pitching at the time. She did her job as a pitcher and the defense fell apart on a couple plays. They owed it to her and themselves to step up and do better than what they were."

McGowan said the girls really got behind each other and pulled together for a rally. The Lady Lakers ended up scoring six runs to take the lead before retiring their last batter.

"I have never seen them so pumped up before," she said. "We went into the top of the 7th and retired the first two batters and then gave up a single before retiring the third and final batter of the game."

McGowan said the team's postgame huddle was a little different this time around.

"When we looked around at all of their faces, they were full of smiles and confidence. It was the team that we had been looking for all season," she said. "Every game that we had played before that point was practice for what we did there. They came out and scored first, continued to try to score every inning, fought back after a bad inning and came from behind to win a game- never once showing any sign of giving up. I think they liked the fact that for once in a long time, Jamie and I came into the huddle smiling."

McGowan said while the win was great for the girls, she informed them it would be short lived.

"We had another game to get through. We all watched Garrard County and Casey County play, waiting to see which team we would be playing in our next game. After the game was completed, we found ourselves facing Garrard County again, the same team who had held us to a no hitter/shut out and run ruled us by 10 after five the day before," she said.

McGowan said she and Coach Brumley talked to the girls before the game and told them they needed focus and to carry that confidence they got from the Clinton game into the game against Garrard.

"Garrard was the visiting team, so they hit first and scored a run before retiring the side. Our girls came into bat at the bottom of the first and they were all determined to get that run back and more," she said.

Cheyenne Simpson started the Lady Lakers off with a double. Sky Covarrubias stepped up and hit a single to move them in first and third positions. Then Abby Adams came up and bashed a double into left field, scoring both Simpson and Covarrubias.

"We had two strikeouts before Sara McClure stepped up to the plate and hit a single scoring Adams," she said. We finished the first inning with three runs and never looked back. Cheyenne Simpson held Garrard scoreless for the rest of the game, while our batters scored again in the 5th and 6th, ending the game with a 5-1 win and putting us into the championship game."

The Clinton win was big for the Lady Lakers but beating Garrard, who had a perfect record coming into the tournament and had held Russell County hitless and scoreless the day before was huge.

"By far, the best game we have played so far this season," McGowan said. "I was very proud of the girls and their effort. For the first time, every aspect of the game looked like it was coming together."

The Lady Lakers then played Butler in the championship game.

"When we played them Friday, they had scored in the 1st, 2nd, 3rd, 4th and 6th before beating us 7-0," she said. "This time around, they had runners in scoring position every inning, 1-4, however our defense carried us into the 5th inning 0-0."

Butler scored their first run in the 5th inning off of a defensive error. They scored four more in the 6th off of straight base hits.

"They weren't all line shots, I have never seen so many bloopers pulled together," she said. "They were just out of reach of the infield and just short of the outfield. Still outright hits, but frustrating to watch because our defense was trying anything they could to keep the ball from hitting the ground. That was all we can ask of them in situations like that. "

Russell County tried to pull something together in the 6th with a two out rally in which Ashley Adams and Cheyenne Simpson both pulled out singles, but the Lady Lakers retired our side with no score.

"We ended up losing 5-0 and taking runner-up in the overall tournament," she said. "Overall, this weekend was great for our girls. We rebounded from a 0-3 Friday record to 2-1 Saturday record in single elimination play and receiving runner up in our own tournament."

McGowan said most impressive to her was the way the team came back against teams that had defeated them the day before.

"In both games, Garrard and Butler, there were improvements," she said. "That is all we ask, to try to get better every day, every batter, every pitch, every game."

She said all of her girls had a fantastic tournament whether it was on defense or offense, but if she had to name players of the tournament they would have to be senior Sky Covarrubias, who had a solid defensive effort throwing a runner out at home and catching everything hit her direction and finished the tournament at the plate hitting .333 and racking up a triple and a stolen base as well as Cheyenne Simpson, who had a solid pitching effort picking up the key wins against Clinton and Garrard and hitting .500 for the classic with a triple and a double.

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