Boyle softball team gets a new home

Published 1:58 pm Thursday, April 13, 2023


Contributing Writer

The Boyle County softball team is safe at home.

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For virtually the entire existence of the program, Boyle has called someone else’s field home. That changed Wednesday night, when the Lady Rebels played their first game at the stadium built just for them and for the girls who will follow them in years to come.

When the complex is completed, their new home will have features players could previously only dream about and fan comforts that will enhance the game.

For now, it is enough that the interior of the stadium is essentially complete, featuring field technology that most people don’t even know exists and comfortable stadium seating for fans.

“This atmosphere is fantastic, with the stadium seating and the press box. It just gives the kids what they deserve,” Boyle coach Brian Deem said. “They work so hard, and sometimes softball facilities around the state get slighted a little bit, and we did it the right way. It’s just a great moment and a great opportunity to have this type of facility to call home.”

Boyle christened the stadium with a 13-3, five-inning victory over 45th District rival Garrard County, and it didn’t take long for the Lady Rebels to determine that their greatest home field advantage lies not in the bells and whistles but in the atmosphere the facility provides.

“I mean, look at it,” said Boyle infielder Summer Ray, one of six seniors who took part in the pregame ribbon-cutting ceremony. “It’s intimidating when you come up here and it’s a beautiful field. We’ve played at nice fields and you’re like, ‘Wow, this place is awesome!’ When teams come here they’re going to be like, ‘Dang, they’ve got everything here.’

“This is the best complex in the state. I fully believe it.”

The $3.4-million facility opened about 13 months after the Boyle County Board of Education approved its construction. It wasn’t ready for the start of the season — Boyle played four home games at Centre College — and its opening night was delayed by one day due to last-minute issues with inspections.

“It’s been an absolute journey, but … to be able to have a practice on Monday and to be able to come here and actually play on campus, at home in this beautiful facility, my kids have needed this for a while,” Deem said.

Senior outfielder Courtney Sandy, who had Boyle’s first hit and its first run on the new field, said waiting wasn’t easy as the start of practice and the start of the season came and went and construction continued, but it was worth it.

“It’s been an adjustment, for sure, and I think it’s really tested our character, and I’m so proud of how these girls handled it,” Sandy said. “I think I’ve gotten closer with these girls just because of that situation.”

Boyle called Rebel Stadium home for the past 11 seasons, sharing that facility with football, soccer and other activities. Before that, its home fields included diamonds at Millennium and Henry Jackson parks.

But as of exactly 6 p.m. Wednesday, when Peyton Guerrant threw the first pitch to Garrard’s Molly Abney, the Lady Rebels took ownership of their new home.

Minutes earlier, they shouted and screamed their approval as board of education vice chairman Jesse Johnson cut the ribbon the six seniors held.

“The girls, obviously, are very proud of it,” Boyle principal Mark Wade said. “It’s good to see the excitement, you see the fans gathered around and everyone’s comfortable. It’s a facility that’s well built and will last a long time.

“It speaks highly of our school board. They want to build things that are of value and will last.”

The most valuable part of the facility, of course, is the field, a state-of-the-art synthetic surface that is actually three fields in one:

• The outfield and foul territory have turf with crumb rubber infill similar to the surface Boyle previously played on at Rebel Stadium.

• The infield — where dirt would normally be on conventional softball fields — features an infill made of shredded olive pits and mixed with sand for a quicker surface that plays more like a hard clay infield, faster than the slightly longer outfield turf.

• The warning track has a lava rock infill that crunches underfoot, helping players know when they’re getting close to the fence.

“I love the turf, how there’s so much technology in it. The infield and the outfield are two completely different things,” Sandy said. “You can tell that they put money into this and they wanted it to be right.”

Boyle administrators asked Deem for input on the ideal field to install, and he and former assistant coach Jay DeBord visited a handful of fields and decided to ask for a surface like the one they saw at the University of Tennessee’s baseball stadium.

Plenty of thought went into other features as well. There are large dugouts with a not-yet-completed locker room behind the Boyle dugout and a couple of storage areas, bullpens along both foul lines and stadium seating for about 350 fans.

A building that will house a concession stand and restrooms for the adjacent softball and baseball fields will soon be completed, and a batting cage will be built beyond the right field corner in the coming weeks.

Deem said other impressive softball fields have been built around the state in recent years, and he’s glad to see that.

“But I’ll put this facility up against anybody,” he said.

There was wet concrete here and patches of dirt there on Wednesday, but that didn’t matter when it came time for the Lady Rebels to take the field.

“It’s something special,” Ray said. “We get to be the starting point of it, which I just think is so cool. We’re going to look back and say, ‘We were the first people that got to play on that field.”

Ray and Sandy each had three hits and four RBIs and Boyle had 13 hits in all on its historic evening. For the record, these were some of the firsts at the new stadium:

• First pitch — Guerrant, a strike resulting in a groundout by Abney.

• First hit — Aislinn Ellis, Garrard, an infield single in the first inning.

• First home run, first RBI — Emily Hounshell, Garrard, a two-run shot to left field in the first inning.

• First run — Ellis, who scored on Hounshell’s home run.

• First Boyle hit — Sandy, a single in the first inning.

• First Boyle run, first Boyle RBI — Sandy, who scored on a groundout by Lauren Tipton in the first inning.

• First Boyle home run — Cambry Cheek, a solo shot off the scoreboard in left-center field in the third inning.

• First double — Ray, in the second inning.

• First triple — Sandy, in the fifth inning.

• First winning pitcher — Guerrant.

The firsts are behind them, but the Boyle seniors have several more games on their new field this year, and Ray and Sandy smiled when they saw young girls tossing a ball around after the game and thought of them playing there years from now.