The Johnson Central Lady Golden Eagles mowed through the competition during tournament play this season. They did not allow a single run during the 57th District Tournament, nor in the regional, until the championship game against Pike Central, where they punched their ticket to the Semi-State 8 to face Ashland Blazer, with a 9-1 win and the region crown.
One might say Johnson Central was playing their best softball at just the right time. The Kittens and the Lady Golden Eagles have met before. Ashland bested Johnson Central with a 4-2 win on March 23rd. The Kittens scratched Johnson Central a second time defeating them Saturday 1-0.
The tough pill to swallow for the Lady Golden Eagles was starting pitcher Chloe VanHoose didn’t allow a hit as she pitched a complete game in the loss. The standout sophomore struck out nine batters in her six complete innings of work. Walking only one.
Her counterpart on the mound, Ashland’s Mykayla Akers, didn’t have a bad day either. She also struck out nine batters, but allowed three hits and walked two in the win.
The game was scoreless through one inning of play. VanHoose struck out the first three batters she faced.
To start the second, Johnson Central’s Jaden Bowling singled to left for the Lady Golden Eagles, but was left stranded after Katelyn Fitch and catcher Morgan Hopson fell victim to Akers strikeout’s.
Ashland scored the lone run of the ballgame in the bottom half of the inning. Halie Haney reached first on an error by the infield and she then stole second base. Camryn Cassidy then laid down the sacrifice bunt which scored Haney giving the Kittens a 1-0 lead.
The Lady Golden Eagles went down in order in the top of the third as did Ashland in the bottom.
Johnson Central had their best opportunity to take over in the top of the fifth. Fitch laid down a sacrifice bunt to move Bowling on to second. Hopson then reached first giving Johnson Central runners at first and second with one out. However, Chloe Lafferty and Claire Gamble both popped out to end the inning leaving the runners stranded.
The Lady Golden Eagles had one last opportunity in the top half of the sixth with the top of the order coming to the plate. Alaina Castle grounded out and VanHoose struck out. Senior Alyssa Hedrick smoked a double down the left field line, which put the tying run on second base. Clean up hitter Abby Fannin grounded out to end the inning, leaving Hedrick 90 feet away.
VanHoose continued her dominance in the bottom of the sixth as she retired Ashland in order.
Johnson Central’s last at bat gave a glimmer of hope as Bowling, who, was two for three on the day singled to right field. That’s as close as she would get as the lineup went down in order to end Johnson Central’s season by a final of 1-0.
The Lady Golden Eagles finished the year 24-16. Johnson Central won 57th District and 15th Region championships. The Lady Golden Eagles will lose six seniors off of this season’s squad, but the stable is far from empty.
Look for Johnson Central to be right back defending their titles next season when the 57th District and 15th Region tournaments roll around.