Boyle softball team takes aim at sixth straight regional title after rocky regular season

Published 1:26 pm Thursday, May 11, 2023


Contributing Writer

The Boyle County girls softball team may not be meeting their standard, but they can still meet their goals.

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As an anomalous regular season draws to a close at Boyle, the Lady Rebels are squarely focused on making the coming postseason look like all the others they have known, which would mean winning a sixth consecutive 12th Region championship.

Steeled by a challenging schedule, strengthened by adversity and showing improvement both in the pitcher’s circle and at the plate, the Lady Rebels are a confident team as they prepare for the start of postseason play next week.

“You’ve got to have that confidence going into the tournament, like you know you’re fully capable of it,” senior pitcher-infielder Ella Coffey said. “I 100 percent believe in us, and I believe we have a very long road ahead of us.”

A 2-8 start and a schedule stacked with ranked opponents have left Boyle’s streak of 12 consecutive winning seasons — with at least 20 wins in each of those seasons — in jeopardy.

After a 7-2 win over Casey County in its senior night game Wednesday, Boyle stood at 10-16 with three regular-season games remaining.

“I do like the fact that we’re competing well,” Boyle coach Brian Deem said. “We’re facing really good competition, and we’ve gone toe to toe the last two or three games against some top-25 competition.”

Deem also likes that his team appears to be hungry.

“They realize that although this year has been tough, there are things about it that are going to put us in a good position for next week and hopefully the region tournament,” he said.

Still, there’s no denying that this season has been a bit different for a program that has become one of the best in Kentucky over the past 12 years.

The Lady Rebels have taken their lumps — especially early in the season — against the kind of schedule they play every year. They typically give as good as they get against some of the top teams in the state, but this season they are 0-11 against teams ranked in the final Kentucky Softball Coaches Association top 25 released this week.

They held their own in losses this week to No. 16 Anderson County and No. 6 Great Crossing, and they have two games remaining against ranked teams Friday at No. 10 Madison Central and Saturday against No. 22 Central Hardin.

He said the Lady Rebels also have learned from their games against ranked teams, as well as another half-dozen or so games against teams ranked among the best in their regions.

“The key for us is we understand that we’re going to have to compete every day,” Deem said. “We’ve seen some excellent pitchers, we’ve seen excellent hitters. … All in all, we’ve learned that we’re going to have to play seven innings or we’re going to be in trouble.”

Coffey said all of their experiences have helped prepare them for what’s coming next.

“Everything happens for a reason, I think all of it just gets us that much more excited to go into the postseason,” she said. “It’s only preparing us for next week and the rest of the postseason because we’ve got a long road ahead of us.”

Deem said Boyle took some lumps early in the season because inexperienced pitchers were trying to find their way — returning Boyle pitchers accounted for only about 13 percent of the team’s innings pitched last season — and because the offense couldn’t produce the timely hits needed to create big innings.

As for hitting, she said that has been the area of greatest improvement since the start of the season.

“I think at first we struggled here and there. We would get our hits in, but we weren’t really stringing as many as we normally would, and I think over time it’s built up,” Coffey said. “Hitting’s always the thing that comes last … and that’s been the biggest improvement for us. Our hitting’s coming along a lot better than it was at the beginning.”

Lauren Tipton went 4 for 4 and Courtney Sandy, Summer Ray and Cambry Cheek had two hits each as Boyle used a 13-hit attack to defeat Casey in the first meeting between the two sets of Lady Rebels since 2010.

Casey (7-24) scored twice in the sixth inning to pull within 5-2, but Boyle escaped further damage when first baseman Regan Brownley started an unusual 3-2-8 double play

Ray led Boyle in batting average (.478), home runs (7) and RBIs (32) entering Wednesday’s game, while Sandy was hitting .453 and Coffey was at .355.

Boyle closes its season Saturday with games against Notre Dame and Central Hardin in its annual Tyler Missbach Memorial Showcase.

Then it’s on to the postseason. Boyle faces Danville on Monday in a 45th District semifinal, and a win would give them a shot at a third straight district title and a 10th in 11 seasons and send them on to the 12th Region Tournament, where Deem said their experience will be an asset.

“We’ve got kids that have been there,” he said. “And I think we’re going to have kids that are going to be able to handle some of the pressure, the excitement.”