LEXINGTON — The best season in school history came to a close for Central Hardin Saturday.
The Lady Bruins dropped a 4-1 decision to Warren East in the semifinals of the KHSAA State Softball Tournament at the University of Kentucky’s John Cropp Stadium.
“You accomplished your goals,” Coach Jamie Goodman said to his squad. “There’s no reason to hang your heads.”
The only goal still atop that list is winning a state title, but that’s far easier said than done.
“Our goal was to be here on the last day,” Goodman said. “We came up a little short, but I’m still proud of them. They accomplished a lot of goals. We fought to the very end and we had a chance at the end. That’s all you can ask.
“Some days you just have to tip your hat to the other team. They were a little better than we were today. Some days it’s like that. It’s why we all love this game.”
One inning made the difference.
The Lady Raiders scored three times in the bottom of the second inning.
Kya Elkin walked with one out and Emma Young tripled on a 1-2 pitch. Shelby Trent bunted and Young scored ahead of the throw to the plate. Kelsey Sparks singled on the first pitch she saw with two outs to plate Trent.
“They got a couple more hits than we did,” Goodman said. “Other than that, it was a really tight ballgame.
“We had our chances. We just couldn’t quite get the big hit when we needed it. That’s the game. We’ve been on top of that a lot this year. Sometimes it just doesn’t go your way and today it didn’t.”
Central Hardin made it 3-1 in the top of the fifth inning. After she reached on a fielder’s choice for the second out, junior Angel Ashlock stole second, moved to third on an Emily Bryant single and scored on an error.
Kentucky Miss Softball and Warren East senior Katie Gardner blasted a solo home run in the bottom of the inning on the eighth pitch of the at-bat for a 4-1 count.
Central Hardin made Gardner and the Lady Raiders work in the top of the seventh.
Junior Bailey Richardson began the inning with a single and, two outs later, Bryant singled for the third time in as many at-bats and Peyton Beger was walked on four pitches to load the sacks.
Gardner got out of it with her seventh strikeout and 119th pitch of the contest.
The Lady Bruins finished 36-8 and third in the state. Their previous best finish was fifth a couple of times.
“I’m really proud of this team,” said senior pitcher Kaci Goedde, who took the loss to finish the campaign at 21-6. “We did really good this year.”
Goedde pitched a six-inning perfect game in the 12-0 win over Pendleton County in Friday’s quarterfinals, finishing her high school career at 65-21.
“It was really fun,” she said about being in the Central Hardin program. “I enjoyed it. It was a great experience.”
Goedde, the All-Area Pitcher of the Year four straight seasons, was replaced by junior Baylee Hardeman with two on and one out in the bottom of the sixth inning.
“Kaci gave us everything she had out there and we wanted to give them a different look,” Goodman said. “I thought Baylee did an incredible job. I think that gave her a lot of confidence for the future. Getting to pitch on this level, at this stage and performing the way she did should do nothing but give her confidence.
“I put her in a tough situation and she did great.”
Sparks lined out to Hardeman and after a four-pitch walk to load the bases, Hardeman got out of the jam with a strikeout.
Central Hardin loses Goedde, Beger, Onnica Nichols and Erin Urick to graduation.
“They have led this program. They did everything we asked them to do this year,” Goodman said. “They can walk out of here proud. It’s been a great group and I’m gonna miss them all.
“We’ve got some shoes to fill. A lot of wins, a lot of catches in the outfield and a lot of home runs to fill.”
Two-third of the outfield will be new next year with Beger vacating center and Nichols left.
“We’ve got a lot of talent and hopefully they’ll fill in,” Goodman said. “That’s what we try to do every year.”
Beger finished her career being selected the 5th Region and All-Area Player of the Year.
“Seven years went by real fast,” she said. “We’ve done something we’ve never done before. I don’t know if I can put into words how proud I am of this team.”
Goedde and Beger were selected to the All-Tournament team.
Louisville Male completed its undefeated season with a 6-1 win over Warren East to claim the state championship.
WARREN EAST 4, CENTRAL HARDIN 1
Central Hardin 000 010 0 1 5 1
Warren East 030 010 x 4 9 1
Kaci Goedde, Baylee Hardeman (6) and Bailey Richardson; Katie Gardner and Harlie Stringfield. WP: Gardner (32-1). LP: Goedde (20-6) 2B: Shelby Trent (WE). 3B: Emma Young (WE). HR: Gardner (WE).