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The area is being invaded by prep softball teams this weekend.
Sixth-ranked Central Hardin is the only local team in the 24-team Big M Chevrolet Softball Sportacular at the Elizabethtown Sports Park, while LaRue County and reigning 5th Region Tournament runner-up North Hardin join No. 23 Meade County in the Lady Waves’ 12-team event at Meade-Olin Park in Brandenburg.
Both tournaments open with pool play this afternoon and wrap up with single-elimination tournament play Saturday.
Here’s a look at the fields at both sites:
BIG M CHEVY SOFTBALL SPORTACULAR. This event could also be known as the “Who’s Who Invitational” with 13 teams ranked in the coaches’ preseason top 25 and nine teams which played in last year’s state tournament.
Elizabethtown assistant coach Rodney Chancey, the tournament’s director, joked the new event is “like the state tournament on steroids.”
“The state tournament has always been the only time that the best teasm from the east get to play the best teams from the west,” Chancey said. “With upsets during the postseason, it’s not always the best teams playing (at State).”
The tournament is so big, it will take six fields with simultaneous games to finish the 47-game schedule.
“Since E’town is centrally located and with the facilities (at the Elizabethtown Sports Park), it just seemed like a logical match,” Chancey said. “The tourney field is extraordinary, even better than anticipated. We have even received phone calls requesting a spot for next year from some typically powerful programs.”
In addition to Central Hardin, the other ranked teams are No. 1 Greenwood, No. 2 McCracken County, No. 3 Owensboro Catholic, No. 4 Louisville Mercy, No. 7 Scott County, No. 8 Louisville Male, No. 11 Madisonville-North Hopkins, No. 12 Oldham County, No. 13 Livingston Central, No. 14 Christian County, No. 21 Henderson County and No. 25 Allen County-Scottsville.
Eight teams which received votes in the preseason poll are in the field: Daviess County, Green County, Woodford County, Lexington schools Lafayette and Paul Dunbar and Louisville schools Assumption, Butler and Eastern.
Rounding out the field are Frankfort Western Hills, South Warren and Tennessee power Soddy Daisy.
“In my opinion, the tournament will be one of the best high school tournaments in the state annually,” said Elizabethtown coach Matt Mardis. “We have the best facilities and top talent from all across the state. We are drawing (scouts from) NAIA to (NCAA) Division-I and II programs for recruiting, so I expect this tourney to grow and improve every year.”
Chancey said coaches from Louisville, Bellarmine and Midway requested the tournament schedules so they could scout potential recruits.
The teams are divided into six four-team pools. Each team plays one pool game at 5:30 or 7 tonight, its second game at 8 a.m. or 9:30 a.m. Saturday and its final pool game at 11 a.m. or 12:30 p.m. Saturday. The top two teams in each pool advance to the 12-team tournament. Bracket games are set for 2 p.m. (play-in), 3:45 p.m. (quarterfinals), 5:30 p.m. (semifinals) and 7:30 p.m. (championship).
Central Hardin’s pool opponents are Mercy (5:30 p.m. today), Woodford County (9:30 a.m. Saturday) and Livingston Central (12:30 p.m. Saturday).
Gate fees are $8 for one day or $14 for a tournament pass. Coaches’ passes are not accepted.
MEADE COUNTY SOFTBALL TOURNAMENT. The event is smaller than usual, but still boasts a solid field. Joining the three area teams are Bardstown Bethlehem, Breckinridge County, Bullitt Central, Grayson County, Jeffersontown, Louisville Holy Cross, Louisville Presentation, Louisville Pleasure Ridge Park and Effingham (Ill.) St. Anthony. Holy Cross is ranked 18th, while Bullitt Central and Pleasure Ridge Park received votes in the preseason poll.
The teams are divided into four three-team pools. Every team is scheduled to play two pool games tonight. The tournament’s four play-in games are slated for 9 a.m. Saturday, while the quarterfinals are at 10:30 a.m., the semifinals are at 1 p.m. and the final is at 2:30.
North Hardin’s pool games are against Holy Cross (6 tonight) and Bethlehem (7:30 tonight. LaRue County’s pool games are against Jeffersontown (7:30 tonight) and Bullitt Central (9 tonight). Meade County’s pool games are against Pleasure Ridge Park (6 tonight) and Grayson County (7:30 tonight).