Young Boyle softball team charting course of improvement

Published 4:45 pm Tuesday, April 23, 2024

At just about the midpoint of the season, the Boyle County softball team is just about where it should be.

The Lady Rebels have come a long way in the month or so since their season began, and their coach said they have a long way to go in the month or so that remains before the postseason.

Coach Brian Deem said he likes the direction his team is heading, particularly after it enjoyed its best week of the season.

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Boyle more than doubled its victory total by winning four of five games, including two games that gave the Lady Rebels a commanding lead in the 45th District standings.

“We’re miles away, miles away from where we were a month ago,” Deem, the Boyle coach, said. “But we’re still trying to find our identity. I think we’re starting to figure some things out. We’re starting to learn to trust ourselves first, and then when we trust in ourselves we can trust our teammates.”

Building trust is critical for a young, inconsistent team that is trying to position itself as a regional contender.

Boyle (7-9, 3-0 district) returned only three full-time starters from last season, and its roster includes 16 underclassmen among the total of 26 players.

“They’re having to learn the game at a different level, and that’s going to take some time and I know that. But as long as they’ll continue to keep coming to practice and wanting to learn more – and they’re wanting to do that – we’re going to be in good shape,” Deem said.

Boyle took control of the district race Thursday with a 15-5, six-inning win at longtime rival Garrard County.

“It puts us pretty close in the driver’s seat of the district, so I think it gives us a pretty good head start so that we can be successful getting into region,” said Boyle left fielder Katie Qualls, who had three hits and three runs in the win over Garrard.

The Lady Rebels racked up 15 hits in that game as they reached the 15-run mark for the third consecutive game.

They defeated Danville Christian 18-3 and Marion County 24-12 earlier in the week. And while their win over Garrard was followed by an 11-0 loss to a Western Hills team on a seven-game winning streak, they bounced back Saturday with a 4-2 win at Collins.

Some of those games provided a break from a typically tough schedule that saw Boyle lose eight of the first 11 games.

“My goal is playing that competition will help better prepare us for the postseason,” Deem said. “It doesn’t guarantee you anything, but what it does is hopefully it slows the game down when you’re playing the elite teams in the state.”

The Lady Rebels have held their own in some of those games, while others have been more one-sided.

“We’ve had days that we absolutely didn’t come to play and the scores represent that, but that’s a part of growing up,” Deem said.

Qualls and the team’s other two seniors, Cambry Cheek and Sophia Hatfield, have assumed larger roles as leaders to help younger players with that growing process.

“That’s a big change,” Qualls said. “I really depended on the seniors last year, on how they guided me, but I think (that) really helped me as a senior this year because I can now guide all these freshmen.”

Pitcher Katherine LeMonds, catcher Cheek and outfielders Qualls, Havannah Maddox and Addie Cannon are the only returning players with significant experience for Boyle, which went 14-19 and lost in the 12th Region semifinals last season after winning the previous five regional titles.

Entering the Garrard game, Qualls was batting .361 with one home run, two triples and seven RBIs and Cheek was batting .438 with four home runs, three doubles and nine RBIs to lead the Boyle offense, while Abby Peavler (3-5, 4.32) and LeMonds (2-2, 2.59) share time in the pitcher’s circle.

“Our bats are starting to spark a little bit, and I feel like our pitching is solid. … We’re trying to clean up our defensive mistakes … and that’s going to be the theme for us this year, just trying to make routine plays,” Deem said. “They’ve been working extremely hard the last month trying to get themselves on track and we’re starting to see some of the fruits of our labor and starting to see some positive outcomes.”

Garrard (8-10, 2-1) also has a young team, with 11 underclassmen on its 17-person roster. The Lady Lions won six of their first eight games but have lost eight of 10 since.

“A lot of them have never been through district games before, so we got to experience that,” Garrard coach Todd Montgomery said. “Experience is the key. We don’t have kids playing in the summer and fall, so we come in here in the spring and try to get it all.”