Lady Panthers fall short in elite eight thanks to late home run

June 4, 2023 | 12:04 am

Updated June 4, 2023 | 1:35 am

Daviess County’s Raylee Roby and East Jessamine’s Kayleigh White had a pitcher’s duel in the elite eight on Saturday, as a late home run from White herself—one of the Jaguars three hits on the day—was the deciding factor in a season-ending 1-0 loss for the Lady Panthers.

It was a slow start for both teams, with both pitchers dealing through the first. Daviess County senior Raylee Roby followed that up with a nice top of the second as well, giving up the first hit of the game but finishing with three strikeouts—marking five strikeouts in two innings pitched—in the top half to keep things scoreless going into the bottom of the second.

The Lady Panthers then got going offensively, starting with a leadoff walk for freshman Annie Newman and a blooper to short right by freshman Callie Smith for their first hit of the game with no outs. Senior Kaydence Hamilton popped up on a bunt attempt the following at-bat though, with a strikeout by senior Kaityln Hill and a groundout to second by sophomore Danielle Beckwith to send things into the third tied at 0-0.

The Jaguars tried to bounce back with a leadoff walk and a bunt single to start the following inning, but Roby responded with back-to-back strikeouts. She nearly struck out the side, but a full-count walk loaded the bases for sophomore Taegan Bentley with two down in a 0-0 game in the top of the third.

Raylee would get the third strikeout after all though, pumping three straight fastballs past Bentley to keep things scoreless going into the bottom of the third. The two pitchers proceeded to keep things in check, as Roby had allowed one hit and senior Kayleigh White had allowed two in a scoreless game through four—striking out 10 and four respectively.

But in the top of the sixth it was White who helped break the drought, connecting with one to send it over the right center field fence and give East Jessamine a 1-0 lead to leadoff the sixth. That would be the deciding blow as well, as the Lady Panthers went three up three down in the bottom of the sixth and seventh—ultimately suffering a season-ending 1-0 loss in the elite eight.

“We knew that Kayleigh White was a good pitcher,” Biggs said. “I felt like every inning we seemed to have better, quality at-bats. We barreled some balls up. We hit some balls extremely hard and they made a couple of really good plays and we hit some that were right at them. And we knew she was a good hitter, so we were trying to be careful with her… She just got a hold of one and she hit it a long way.”

Head Coach John Biggs was proud of his girls’ fight, noting that they battled but just didn’t come up with enough offense to come out on top.

“Raylee was stellar on the mound as usual,” Biggs said. “We’ve gotta find a way to get more than two hits and just get some more baserunners. We had some opportunities there and we couldn’t get some people moved across that we probably would’ve scored more on, but that’s softball.”

Roby was electric in her final start with Daviess County, allowing just one earned run on three hits and two walks, while striking out a whopping 15 batters. The outing was exemplary of the type of pitcher that she has been during her high school career, as the Lady Panthers knew what she would bring to the circle each and every game.

“Her demeanor is so stoic,” Biggs said. “On the outside she doesn’t hold her emotions. She’s pretty calm and cool. We’ve said it all year, we knew what we were going to get from her.”

The Lady Panthers finished the season with an overall record of 31-5, while grabbing their fourth straight 9th District and 3rd Region Championships in the process. The team faced a lot of adversity getting to this point with plenty of teams looking to dethrone them, but Biggs said his team handled it with poise from top to bottom.

“We knew on the outside looking in that there were probably people that were putting bullseyes on our back,” Biggs said. “But we never looked at that. We looked at it as that’s respect and if you’ve got the respect of other programs around then that means you’re doing things the right way. I thought they handled that with no problem. We came out and performed admirably every night and we had very few bad days of practice. They did everything and more than we can ask from a group of kids. And that’s all 39 of them in our program.”

Daviess County will lose eight seniors following the season, a core group that was instrumental in bringing a team that lost six starters back to the elite eight while grabbing district and regional four-peats in the process. Biggs said that they’ve been a group that’s continued to set the standard, leaving a lasting legacy by teaching their teammates how to lead Daviess County while racking up plenty of success along the way.

Now it’s up to those same players to continue the Lady Panthers winning tradition, something that Biggs doesn’t think will be an issue.

“That group doesn’t really know anything different,” Biggs said. “What we wanted to make sure was that the younger ones know that the time, the effort that was put in so those groups and that group had those opportunities every year and they can continue that. A lot of people forget that we lost six starters last year. To be able to play on this stage with some new kids is a testament to the type of talent and the type of kids that we have in our program. We’ve got kids that are ready to step into those roles next year. We’ll take a little bit of time to process all this and we’ll be back and I feel confident with the group that we’ll have next year.”

June 4, 2023 | 12:04 am

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