Happy occasion

Kenley Ison flashes a smile at Scott County coach Billy James after her two-run triple in Tuesday's 16-1 win over Tates Creek. The win in the Cardinals' home opener was James' first as varsity head coach.

Two years including a COVID-19 sabbatical after the community’s powerful high school softball program was split down the middle, there’s an almost entirely new Scott County roster and a new coach who’s preaching patience.

For one night, at least, the Lady Cardinals’ power pitching, contagious hitting and crisp play looked oh-so-familiar. SC needed only four innings to overwhelm Tates Creek, 16-1, in Tuesday’s home opener at Lois Holmes Field.

Lexie Roby, Kaylie Wise, Kenley Ison and Emma Price combined for seven hits, eight runs scored and eight RBI. Ison knocked in four, including a two-run triple that was the centerpiece of a six-run second inning.

Aside from Wise, who was a late addition to full practice after completing her basketball season just over a week ago, the Cardinals’ roster features no prior varsity experience.

“No one has been a starter at all,” said Billy James, who picked up his first varsity win in his second try. “We've only had a month, so we’ve done a lot of what I used to do with the freshman team, a lot of basic stuff. This is one of those young teams that I think about 15 games in, we’ll be a lot better off."

The Cardinals, who dropped their season debut, 9-1, to Butler on Monday, collected six more runs in the third and invoked the 15-run mercy rule with a pair in the fourth.

“It was good to be able to get (the bats) back,” Wise said. “The beginning of the season can be a little scary. Everyone’s tense and everything. But I think that will gave us the confidence boost we needed and help us get going. Hitting is like a snowball effect. It’ll take off like that.”

Eighth-grade left-hander Ada Little gladly accepted all that support, but she required a mere fraction of it.

Little – who, yes, is already drawing comparisons to three-time state champion Kennedy Sullivan, now a star at Western Kentucky University – struck out 10 of her 12 victims in maroon. She allowed only two Tates Creek hits.

“She’s going to be strong here in a couple years,” James said. “I remember when Kennedy was in eighth grade, maybe even 10th grade, walking 10 or 11 girls. So it’ll come, just knowing when you can miss spots.”

Tinley Easton scored the lone run for the Commodores (1-0) in the top of the first when she drew a leadoff walk, stole second and scored on a sinking line drive to left center by Peyton Plotts.

Little worked around that mini-jam by striking out the side.

Kacey Cline walked ahead of a two-out, ground-rule double by Plotts in the third, but Little put that threat on ice by whiffing Shaylin Lewis.

There were few such escapes for Tates Creek pitching.

Wise, Ison and Price singled consecutively to give Scott County the lead in the bottom of the first. The Commodores contained the damage to 2-1 by cutting down the third out at home.

“We’ve been teaching everyone little ways, and everyone’s been picking it up really nice,” Wise said of her role along with fellow senior Roby, who is signed with University of Pikeville. “All the girls have been great to work with. It’s been good.”

The turnaround was a quick one for Wise, who was a starter on SC’s fifth consecutive 42nd District girls’ basketball championship team.

“It’s always a quick little transition, but I like it,” she said. “With COVID, it was harder to get in the batting cage. I tried to get in on a Saturday or Sunday if I could. I was by myself most of the time.”

Two walks, a hit batter and a passed ball fueled the Scott County second. Singles by Jenna McMillan and Makiah Jackson set the table for Ison’s three-bagger to the wall in right field, carving out a 7-1 advantage.

Price punctuated the frame with a sharp line drive to center for another run.

“It wasn’t the strongest of pitching, but we’re going to face that type of pitching where it’s slow and we’ve got to adjust,” James said. “I was worried about that (Monday). Butler brought in a slow pitcher, and we struggled.”

Jackson’s sacrifice bunt lured a throwing error and led to a run that started the third-inning commotion.

McKenzie Quinn and Wise drew consecutive walks to push home another run, and Ison’s smash to shortstop was mishandled for two more. A wild pitch and another Commodore miscue – they committed six on the night – made it 14-1.

“We’ve been doing a lot of cage work when we’ve had the chance,” James said. “There’s been days when it’s been wet, and we’ve spent two hours just hitting, because we know our defense is going to be fine. It’s a matter of being able to hit consistently.”

After a 1-2-3 fourth from Little, RBIs by Kelbi Hastings and Wise ended the onslaught.

Scott County heads back to Louisville on Wednesday for a contest with perennial power Mercy. That level of opponent will be the norm for the Cards, who were ranked No. 24 in a statewide preseason coaches’ poll.

“It will make us face experienced pitching and show us what to expect the rest of the season,” Wise said of this week’s two road tests.

The Cards’ most recent win on the diamond was also over the Commodores, in the 2019 11th Region quarterfinals.

Price was 2-for-3 in SC’s loss to Butler. Roby, Quinn and Ison had the only other hits.

Little struck out eight, walked five and scattered eight hits while going the route. Five of the nine runs against her were unearned.

“Our three errors really hurt us,” James said.

Mercy is the first of five consecutive away games for SC, a stretch that concludes with the inaugural Battle of the Birds at Great Crossing on Tuesday, April 13.

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