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SOFTBALL: Memorial Day fireworks send Lady Bearcats to regional semis

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Curry, Vest power Anderson past Walton-Verona

By John Herndon

Fireworks aren't just for the Fourth of July.

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At least, that was the case around Anderson County softball Monday evening.

Bailey Curry and Alissa Vest both belted Memorial Day home runs and the Lady Bearcat speed manufactured at least five runs as Anderson routed visiting Walton-Verona, 10-3, in the first round of the Eighth Region Tournament.

Curry's home run, a two-run shot in the third inning, put the Lady Bearcats firmly in control, 6-2. Vest's blast was more along the line of a grand finale. Leading 8-3, Vest lofted a fly ball that just cleared the right-center field fence and prompted the Anderson faithful that made up most of the overflow crowd to make plans for Tuesday's semi-final showdown with regional favorite Oldham County.

It was the third time in the last four years that Anderson advanced to the regional semi-finals. Anderson has now advanced at least that far in post-season play nine of the last 13 seasons.

“We have been on (Vest) to swing at good pitches,” Anderson coach Brian Glass said with a smile. “She got a good one and she did what she is supposed to do.”

Which is basically what the entire Anderson team did after a shaky first inning. The Lady Bearcats pounded the ball, created havoc on the base paths and saw pitchers Mia Aldridge and Ally Moore scatter six hits but give up only two earned runs.

Aldridge, who had been nothing short of outstanding over the last month, went the first four innings, getting the win. Moore closed things out, answering questions about a tender finger, injured just before the district final four days earlier.

Glass made the switch to Moore to start the fifth inning with Anderson up 7-2. She struggled a bit in the sixth when she surrendered a double to Jennifer Brauer and a single to Chelsea Conner to lead off the inning.

Glass visited the mound with simple instructions. “I told her to snap and throw the ball hard, because that is her bread and butter, throwing hard.” he said.

While Brauer scored when Abby Wassem tapped one back to Moore, the freshman reared back to close things out.

“I wanted to pitch both of them,” Glass said. “We are going to have to use both of them. Mia has been pitching lights out, but we have lots of confidence in both of them.”

Aldridge struggled at first, giving up a pair of doubles and two runs, one coming when shortstop Corrin Robinson overthrew first on Wassem's ground ball.

Anderson got the runs back in the bottom of the inning when Molly Burkhead led off with a walk, then scored on Curry's one-out double. Courtesy runner Trista Craigmyle stole third base, then came home on Kaci Currens' ground out.

The Lady Bearcats put things away in the third when Aldridge single, Burkhead beat out a bunt for a hit. Missa Walker then laid down another bunt, prompting Wassem, fielding at third, to throw wildly to first.

Aldridge and Burkhead scored before Curry drove an 0-2 pitch well over the fence in center field to make it 6-2. For all practical purposes, it was over.

“Our speed played a huge part in this win,” Glass said. Anderson also used small ball to plate a run in the fourth when Katelyn Harrod doubled, then Craigmyle, pinch running, stole third. Walton-Verona catcher Emily Quatkemeyer made a good throw to third. Her problem was no one was covering the bag. Craigmyle strolled home as the throw went to the outfield.

It was almost a repeat in the fifth when Walker singled, stole second, went to third on a ground out, then scored when she delayed her break on Currens' sacrifice bunt.

Walton-Verona aided the Lady Bearcats with two errors and misplaying several fly balls that might have been catchable.

Glass had been concerned, even though his team, which improved to 25-11, was heavily favored.

“Absolutely,” said Glass, who had not seen Walton-Verona play. “We knew their pitcher (Hannah Thacker) had thrown some good games and was capable os shutting us down.”

Walton-Verona also suffered a bad break when first baseman Julann Ginn was hurt as she stretched for a throw to end the second inning. Ginn, who doubled in her only at-bat, had been in the three-spot in the lineup.

But with Walton-Verona's big bat silenced, Anderson's fireworks were more than enough.

“I don't think we came out with the focus and the intensity like we should have in the first inning,” Glass said. “After that, we calmed down and played well.”

 

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