It’s a rematch, of sorts, in the 5th Region Tournament beginning Monday at Central Hardin.
LaRue County, the 18th District runner-up, meets Taylor County to open the quadrupleheader at 11 a.m.
They played two weeks ago in a 3-2 Lady Hawks victory.
“This is what we wanted, beat the heat and get after it with a familiar opponent,” LaRue County coach Rocky Cundiff said. “We know what to expect and we know what to get ready for. We’ll go out there and give it our all.”
Lady Hawks senior pitcher Sarah Jo Calhoun tossed a one-hitter in the last meeting. She tossed an incredibly efficient 70 pitches, striking out two and walking none. Calhoun threw 73 percent of her pitches for strikes and sat down the first 13 batters she faced.
Back-to-back errors and a couple of stolen bases led to one run. The second run came when Avery Smith doubled to begin the sixth inning, stole third and scored on a groundout.
LaRue County’s Paige Evans was 2-for-3 with a home run and two runs scored.
Taylor County (19-11) won the 20th District after an 11-3 decision over Marion County. The Lady Cardinals have won four in a row and 6-of-8, the two losses being to LaRue County and Meade County.
LaRue County (21-14) made it back to the region tournament for the first time since 2015 thanks to a 13-9 win over nemesis Hart County in the district semifinals.
“You’d thought we’d won regions that night, or the state tournament,” Cundiff said of the dugout atmosphere. “It had been a while.”
The Lady Hawks have missed juniors Jolie Puckett and Cayce Foster all season and senior Jordan McClure since the end of March.
“We’ve plugged and pulled and we’re playing out best ball right now,” Cundiff said. “The kids are playing great together. Their energy is off the hook. If you’ve got energy, good things can happen. They’re upbeat every day. They want to come to practice. They want to play.
“We have no senioritis. We didn’t catch it this year. When we beat Hart the other night, the huddle was full of tears of joy and these kids are pumped. We’re off the schneid and back where we need to be. Life’s good. It’s a good time to be coaching and playing at LaRue County.”
The 1 p.m. game pits 17th District champion Central Hardin (31-7) against 19th District runner-up Bethlehem (22-10). The Banshees lost to Washington County, 4-3 in the title game.
Bethlehem has won 4-of-5 and 13-of-15.
“The last two weeks of the season always gets hard because playing time gets cut down for some of them, where we were dividing it up pretty equal for a while,” Lady Bruins coach Jamie Goodman said. “It gets down to where you go with what you feel like you should go with as a coach and a coaching staff. They’ve all handled it really well and they play their roles. I tell them, ‘If somebody’s struggling, you never know when your number’s gonna get called. You’ve got to be ready’ and they’ve all done that.”
Central Hardin has won the last four 5th Region championships and defeated the Banshees is this tournament in 2016 (16-1) and 2015 (10-3).
The Lady Bruins have given up three runs in each of the last three region tournaments and come in having won seven in a row and 11-of-12.
“They’ve really been what you would call a team,” Goodman said. “There’s not a lot of individual stuff. They’ve really bought into that team mentality. I bragged about that early on in conditioning. They were pretty close and they were a team and that’s the best part about this group.
“When you don’t have a lot of drama — and they haven’t had a lot of drama this year — it makes my job a lot easier.
“You’re always going to have a few hiccups here and there, but for the most part they’ve been a great group. They’ve all gotten along and that’s what you want as a coach.”
The winners of the first two games meet at 6 p.m. Tuesday in one semifinal.
Green County (29-6), the 18th District champs, play 20th District runner-up Marion County at 3 p.m.
Elizabethtown (15-14) takes on Washington County (21-7) in the nightcap at 5 p.m. These teams played in the first round last year, a 5-3 Lady Panthers victory.
“It should hopefully be another good game,” Schmidt said. “I coached with John Rogers growing up and I hate coaching against him and Christy (Baker). When you get this far all the teams are good and very capable. Three of the four teams on our side of the bracket are the same as last year. It should be interesting. We’ll have our group ready.”
Elizabethtown comes in having lost 3-of-4, but the one win was the most important one, beating North Hardin in the district semifinals to reach the region affair.
The Lady Panthers were down, 5-1 heading into the bottom the fifth inning.
“We didn’t hit the panic button,” Schmidt said. “Just to be able to dig yourself a hole and then still compete and get out of it was good for this group. Typically you get more tense as you get into the postseason, but our kids didn’t panic at all. I was proud of them for that.
“I felt like we did the same thing against Central (an 11-2 loss). Once we had our bad inning (the Lady Bruins scored seven runs in the second), we settled down and kept playing. We didn’t do much offensively, but we kept playing and didn’t give up and shut down the shop.”
The winners of the final two games meet at 8 p.m. Tuesday in the other semifinal.
The championship game is set for 6:30 p.m. Wednesday.