Franklin County faced a choose-your-poison conundrum while trailing Scott County by only one run in the heat of a two-out, fourth-inning jam Saturday.
The dilemma: Pitch to Emma Price, who already had two hits on the afternoon and seven in the playoffs, or cast its lot with Kaylie Wise, merely coming off a district tournament MVP trophy thanks to eight RBI in two games.
With first base open, it could be said the Flyers paid the Price for doing what was Wise.
They issued Price an intentional walk to set up a force play at any base, but Wise’s seeing-eye single eluded two gloves on its way to right field, playing two crucial insurance runs to seal SC’s 4-1 win in the 11th Region quarterfinal at Lois Holmes Field.
“You definitely get a little shocked there,” Wise said. “I was just trying to get a hit. The wind was blowing in. There was no need to hit a home run right then. I was thinking right field, just poke it enough. I was trying to get it on the ground, no pop-ups, just get ‘em in.”
Jenna McMillan walked ahead of a single by Lexie Roby, who advanced to second behind the throw, to set up the scenario with two out.
Delaney Vaughn followed Wise by flaring a ball inside the chalk behind first base, pushing home Price to make it 4-0.
Ada Little slammed the door from there, matching her season and career-high of 13 strikeouts with a one-hitter. The Flyers scored their only run with the help of two errors in the sixth.
“It definitely relaxed us all,” Little said of the three-run outburst. “We were a little nervous, tight at the beginning. I feel like there’s always nerves during any game. You just have to chill, relax, think of it as a regular game. That’s how you get further and further into the tournament.”
Scott County (16-17) won its region opener for the 17th consecutive season and faced Lafayette (28-8) in Monday’s semifinal round at Madison Southern.
The Cards continued their season-long trend of struggling against medium and off-speed pitchers as compared to fireballers. They cobbled together nine hits against Franklin County’s Peyton Sutton, two apiece by Price and Little.
Flyers’ center fielder Sierra Watson took away at least two other hits with a stingy glove. SC left eight on base.
“We didn’t play our best today, but I’ve got to give it to Peyton Sutton. We had nine hits, but nothing hard,” SC coach Billy James said. “Peyton pitched a heck of a game. And Ada did well. Their one hit was a little bitty one.”
Baylee Spickard’s roller ricocheted off the bag at third with one out in the opening frame. Little otherwise retired Franklin County (10-22-1) on strikes.
Price singled and Wise reached on an error in SC’s first go-round before Watson robbed Kenley Ison with a diving catch to end the threat.
Scott County left two more aboard in the second inning but broke through in the third.
Price belted a leadoff double. With two out, Ison fouled off three consecutive pitches with two strikes before smashing an RBI single into right.
“When we go against a pitcher who’s five, six miles per hour slower, it will change us up a bit,” Little said. “The timing’s off, but I think we got a hold of it during the second, third inning. That’s where we got a lot of our hits.”
The Flyers found no such reversal of fortune against Little, who breezed through the final five in order after Franklin County notched its unearned run.
Wise and Roby were the only seniors in the Cardinals’ lineup. If their teammates have felt the burden of the program’s playoff legacy in this past week, they haven’t shown it.
“I think that’s what’s great with younger people. They have no nerves,” Wise said. “I remember the first game (at districts) one of our eighth graders was like, ‘We would’ve gone home if we lost?’ They make it fun, and it calms you down a little bit, because it is nerve-racking your last year. You don’t want to go home.”
Great Crossing and Lexington Catholic meet on the other side of the region bracket.
The title game is Tuesday night with a trip to the state tournament at UK”s John Cropp Stadium on the line.
“I’d love to be in a final against Great Crossing, It’s rewarding to see both schools do well,” said James, whose team did not meet Lafayette or Lexington Catholic during the season and dropped an early 4-2 verdict to the Warhawks. “If we get nine or 10 hits (against Lafayette), we’ll be all right.”
Kal Oakes can be reached via email at email@example.com.