Some resiliency in the circle from junior Brooke Hamilton and big days from senior Lilli Grant and freshman Tyranda Stuart was key for the Lady Aces, as they were able to hang on for a 9-4 win over Apollo on Wednesday to move on to the 9th District Championship.
Owensboro Catholic wasted no time setting the tone for the game, getting a leadoff triple from Lilli Grant and a sac fly from senior Camille Conkright the following at-bat to up 1-0.
Following a single and a walk, junior Brooke Hamilton hit into an RBI groundout to add one more. But it was Stuart who took the cake, sending a no-doubt home run to left center the next at-bat to take a 4-0 lead into the second.
Stuart also helped the Lady Aces expand their lead after a scoreless second inning, delivering an RBI single to take a 5-0 lead into the bottom of the third.
It seemed like Apollo was going to respond with one its best scoring opportunities of the game after a walk and a single from junior Morgan Julian to put runners on first and second with no outs. However, a pop-up to third and a fly out to center followed and nearly killed the rally.
There were runners on the corners after a fly out, but a walk of junior Emmie Bullington loaded the bases for junior Morgan Frizzell. She walked to bring in a run, making it a 5-1 game.
But Brooke Hamilton got seventh grader Lily Logsdon to strike out, keeping Owensboro Catholic out in front 5-1 going into the fourth.
Apollo bounced back for one more with a two-out rally, getting an RBI single from eighth grader Arianna Ramirez to make it a 5-2 game. However, Brooke Hamilton went on to work out of the jam, getting junior K’Asia Palmer to pop up to first with runners on the corners to end the inning.
But the E-gals weren’t done trying to chip away though, as a single and a walk led to a sac bunt from Julian brought Ramirez to the plate with runners in scoring position in the bottom of the sixth.
She singled to left, scoring two and making it a 5-4 deficit now for Apollo. A Lady Aces error followed by a walk loaded the bases with one down, but Brooke Hamilton was able to get a force out at home and a groundout to second to end the inning and remain out in front going into the seventh.
Owensboro Catholic responded swiftly though, taking advantage of an error by the E-gals to score one and build its lead to 6-4. But it was Lilli Grant that sent the proverbial dagger off the scoreboard in left with runners on the corners and two down, taking a 9-4 lead into the bottom of the seventh.
Moments prior to the home run, Lilli Grant had been hitting into a net off a tee outside the Lady Aces dugout and that extra work paid off when her 1-4 day turned into 2-5 with a three-run home run.
“I was trying to work on some outside pitches or a little higher pitches, trying to adjust to anything and go up there and be ready for whatever comes,” Grant said. “The pitch that I saw, I saw it and I was like ‘I’m taking it.’ I was rounding second and I had no clue it was going out and then I saw my coach and I was happy as can be.”
Stuart followed with an equally impressive day, finishing 3-3 at the plate with three RBIs—two coming on her home run. The freshman has gotten some opportunities as the season progressed and Stuart has blossomed at just the right time for Owensboro Catholic.
“Tyranda, nobody knows that kid…” Head Coach Jeremy Phelps said. “She made some big time plays over here and didn’t have the opportunity [early on]. She’s been getting some now and she’s taken advantage of it.”
The E-gals didn’t have the same luck offensively, unable to take advantage of nine walks with only four hits that led to four runs on the day. Bullington also had a rough day in the circle, allowing five earned runs—nine total—on 10 hits, five walks and two strikeouts in seven innings.
“Bad first inning kind of set the tone,” Head Coach Stephen Julian said. “We did a good job of coming back and just made a bad pitch in the last inning. If it’s a one-run game going into the last inning the outcome may be different. You give up four runs in the last inning and you just can’t do that.”
While Brooke Hamilton struggled and gave away a number of free bases, she was able to bear down and finish with eight strikeouts as well while giving up three earned runs on four hits. Her resiliency was desperately needed for the Lady Aces, with junior Alexis Hatchett out because of injury and eighth grader Hannah Robbins at graduation.
“We tried to just keep the focus on ‘don’t worry about the last play’,” Phelps said. “Next play mentality [was key]… You start scoring runs and you take pressure off your pitcher… That’s just the mindset right there.”
Now Owensboro Catholic quickly turns its head to the 9th District Championship, as they will take on Daviess County Friday at 6 p.m. And despite having lost both regular season matchups, Lilli Grant and company feel like they have what it takes to bring home the title.
“Keep the same energy,” Grant said. “I think we can do it very well. As long as we have the energy we had tonight, we’ll do great.”
Apollo on the other hand closes out the year at 17-14 overall and will lose some key upperclassmen on the roster in Olivia Crawford and Sydney Saalwaechter. However, Julian and the E-gals program are hopeful for the future with plenty of experience coming back.
“We got better,” Julian said. “That’s what you wanna do each year… We return seven or eight kids that started and we’ve got some good young talent… You hate it for your seniors, but we’re looking forward to next year already. We’ve got some young talent at some key spots and for the first time since 2020 I feel like we have leadership coming back and you hope they build off of that and come back ready to compete next year.”