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REGION SOFTBALL: Lady Hawks take on Central Hardin

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By Nathaniel Bryan

The LaRue County Lady Hawks’ goal this season wasn’t just to get to the 5th Region Softball Tournament in Munfordville, but the state tournament in Owensboro.

Before earning a spot at State though, the Lady Hawks knew the fourth-ranked Central Hardin Lady Bruins would be in their way.

“We probably would have had to play them anyway, so it’s good to get them out of the way,” said LaRue County senior pitcher and first baseman Brigitte Skaggs, whose 18th District Tournament runner-up Lady Hawks (16-15) take on the 17th District champion Lady Bruins (32-4-1) in the region tournament quarterfinals at 1:30 p.m. Monday at Hart County. “So it’s good to get them out of the way.”

“The toughest thing about facing them right off the bat is we would have had to face them eventually and to win this, you have to beat them because Central’s been a really good team for years now,” added LaRue County senior center fielder Peyton Gardner. “So we’ll do what we can Monday.”

Lady Hawks senior third baseman Courtney Johnson looked at the bright side. If the Lady Hawks could find a way by the Lady Bruins, what reasons would they have for not being able to beat the other two teams which would stand in their path?

“It would definitely get easier,” Johnson said. “But Central’s a hard team to beat.”

It was hard the first time the Lady Hawks played the Lady Bruins this season, as Central Hardin won 11-1 in five innings May 9 in Cecilia. Central Hardin juniors Shelby Maggard and Kelsey McGuffin both went 3-for-3 and were a triple short of the cycle.

“We hit the ball decent, but we need to hit the ball a little better and play really good defense,” Gardner said. “Central’s a good team, but I think we can do it if we do those qualities.”

The teams were slated to meet again toward the end of the regular season, but it was rained out. But being able to see Central Hardin once was good for the Lady Hawks, Skaggs said.

“It’s definitely motivation because we know that we have to do, so I’m glad we got to play them during the season,” Skaggs said. “We know what we had to work on today and we know what we have to work on tomorrow, so it definitely helped us to play them in the normal season.”

LaRue County didn’t have the qualities Gardner mentioned the last time it took the field. In Tuesday night’s 18th District Tournament final, the Lady Hawks blew a 7-3 lead in the bottom of the seventh and lost 8-7.

It showed LaRue County that it must be able to finish.

But it also proved anything can happen, which is what the Lady Hawks are hoping for Monday.

“We have bounced back,” Johnson said, “but it just goes to show anything is possible. We had them down 7-3, but you can still come back in that last inning and get them.”

After the heartbreaking defeat, LaRue County took the day off Wednesday.

“They needed it and I needed it, because it was just one of those games that the ball didn’t shake our way,” said LaRue County coach Aaron Howell. “We’ve moved on from that obviously. They’re in great spirits, our attitude was great, They’re hungry and I think we’re ready to do some good things.”

Howell said at this point in the season, there’s not much difference between seeing Central Hardin today in the first round, Tuesday in the semifinals or Wednesday in the final. Lose any of those games and the team is not headed to Owensboro next week.

“There’s no points for second place. We don’t play for second. Nobody remembers second or who was in the semifinals or any of that other crap,” he said. “I’ve told this team since January that they were capable of winning the region. I really think, and I still believe, that they have a great shot.”