Lady Rebels win district title

It wasn’t quite perfect, but Boyle County played well enough to move back to the top of the 45th District.

The Boyle softball team had won seven consecutive district championships before Garrard County knocked them off in 2019. The No. 7-ranked Rebels gained a measure of revenge Tuesday night with a 2-0 victory in the 45th District Tournament final at Rebel Stadium.

Boyle pitcher Kayleigh White took a perfect game into the final inning, then pitched out of trouble after Garrard put the tying run on base with no outs.

“They understood that tonight was going to be a battle, and I told them, ‘At the end of the night your goal is to bring the district back home where it belongs, and we did that,’” Boyle coach Brian Deem said.

White did her part, striking out 16 batters, including 11 of the first 13 she faced. No one who put the ball in play off her got the ball out of the infield.

The sophomore said she knew full well that she had a perfect game going when she went out for the seventh inning. It disappeared quickly, however, when Garrard leadoff hitter Taylor Bailey reached base on a throwing error and Molly Abney singled to right-center field.

“I just knew that I had to keep throwing strikes, trying to let my defense work. Even after that error, just let them keep working,” White said. “I just know that all I have to do is go out there and throw strikes, and if they put it in play I know my defense has got my back.”

White struck out the next two batters, and third baseman Ella Coffey caught a popup in foul territory to end the game.

White is one-half of a powerful pitching duo for Boyle (24-6). Senior Kyndal Honaker threw a one-hitter with 11 strikeouts in the Rebels’ semifinal win over Danville, so it was White’s turn in the title game.

“I was very pleased with Kayleigh’s performance today,” Deem said. “Kayleigh did a great job of working ahead, something that she a couple weeks ago was struggling a little bit with. … When you can work ahead, you’re going to get good results, and she did that tonight.”

White said that was her plan Tuesday, just as it is every time out.

“I just knew that if I got ahead on first-pitch strikes that I would be in their head, and I knew that I had it from the get-go,” she said. “I just tried to locate my pitches and spin them the best that I could.”

Garrard coach Todd Montgomery said he was pleased that the Lady Lions continued to battle at the plate despite seeing little success until the seventh.

“I knew it was coming. It just takes time,” Montgomery said. “We didn’t put much pressure on them, just told them to have fun and relax. We (had) nothing to lose.”

Pitcher Kylee Tudor, also a sophomore, kept Garrard (17-15) in the game by keeping Boyle from getting a big inning. Tudor allowed five hits, and the Rebels had runners on base in every inning, but she pitched out of trouble time after time.

“I thought Tudor pitched fantastic. She kept us off balance,” Deem said. “(She) did a great job of not leaving anything over the plate for us to drive … but we found ways to manufacture runs, and you’re going to have to do that in tight games.”

Honaker, the only Boyle player with two hits, said she wasn’t surprised that this was a tight game.

“I knew they’d bring their best game, and they did,” she said.

Boyle took a 1-0 lead in the first inning after its first two batters, Hailey Cannon and Honaker, reached base on bunt singles. Cannon scored on a sacrifice fly by White, but the Rebels did no further damage.

The Rebels loaded the bases in the second inning, but they failed to score.

“That was an opportunity to knock them out early,” Deem said. “We’ve got to relax and stick to our plan when we’re at the plate. We were either very impatient … and way out in front, or we were almost too patient and overanalyzed and allowed the ball to get too deep on us.”

The Rebels tacked on another run in the fifth inning when Cannon was hit by a pitch, stole her second base of the game and scored on Honaker’s double to the left field fence.

Boyle and Garrard are the only teams to win the 45th District since 2007. Deem said Garrard’s upset win in the 2019 district final was “a blessing in disguise” for a Boyle team that recovered in the regional to earn its third straight state tournament berth, but he used it as motivation in this game.

“I told the kids, ‘You’re not defending champions. You have to go take something from someone. They’re not going to give it to you,’” he said.

Montgomery said this was a game Garrard could grow on. The Lady Lions start four seniors, but also four underclassmen.

“We’ve got kids in diapers playing out there,” Montgomery said. “It’s a good learning experience, and we’re getting better. I’m really proud of them.”

Both Garrard and Boyle advance to the 12th Region Tournament, which begins Saturday at Southwestern.

Montgomery said he thinks the Lady Lions’ veterans can help the team regroup for this weekend.

“They know what to do,” he said.

Boyle will again be the regional favorite, and White said the Rebels are ready for that.

“We know that we’ve got a big target on our back in regions, and we’ve got to work as a team and work for each other to win,” she said.

All-tournament team

Molly Abney, Garrard County; Hailey Cannon, Boyle County; Ella Coffey, Boyle County; Ella Dampier, Danville; Kyndal Honaker, Boyle County; Emily Jeffries, Lincoln County; Kara Mosier, Garrard County; Kylee Tudor, Garrard County; Kayleigh White, Boyle County.