Apr. 14—Bath County expected for 2020 to be a retooling year. But the Lady Cats didn’t get the valuable experience they anticipated, due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Of course, neither did anyone else, which has eased the mind of Bath County coach Kenny Williams.
“Yeah, I’ve told myself that 1,000 times, and I’ve even brought that up to some of the parents 100 times,” Williams said. “It’s not like we’re on an island out here. Everybody’s had a year and a half off, and we’ll see what happens.”
Fleming County paces the 61st District in experience, with six returnees who played in 16 games or more in 2019.
“I look for us to be very competitive,” Lady Panthers coach Tanna Seuferer said. “We have eight seniors this season, so I look for them to lead our team and use their experience to push us toward success.”
Everyone is chasing Rowan County, which had won 19 of its last 23 games against district opponents heading into Tuesday’s bout with Fleming County — including three straight district tournament finals.
The Lady Vikings, even returning five players who competed in 16 games or more two years ago, still had to play catch-up because six projected starters participated in basketball or swimming, keeping the bulk of their attention off the diamond in the preseason.
“It definitely feels different when you have a whole year of not competing, or not getting to work with your players,” Rowan County coach Larry Slone said. “It’s been like starting over.”
The Lady Cats only return two of nine regulars from 2019, but Williams sees a certain excitement there.
“This year, there’s more questions than there are answers,” he said, “but I’m just trying to prepare myself to be calm about it. We’re gonna be so young, and let’s just have fun with it and see how we can build on whatever successes we come across, and take the negatives and try to learn from them.”
Sophomore Kirsten Vice and freshman Taylor Hodson will take over in the circle. Hodson is one of the aforementioned returning regulars, but not at pitcher. She did hit .324, score 31 runs and drive in 18 as a seventh-grader in 2019.
Vice threw 84 pitches over two outings — both victories — two seasons ago.
Senior catcher Jesselin Miller is the other Lady Cat who saw significant time in 2019. She hit .450, drove in 51 runs and knocked 24 extra-base hits, and Williams expects similar production this year.
Freshman Ashlee Rogers — Williams’s stepdaughter — and senior Morgan Reed are competing for time at first base. Freshman Ashtyn Barrett will play second, and Hodson will fill in at shortstop when she isn’t pitching. Senior Selah Bussell, who scored 12 runs — primarily as a courtesy or pinch runner — two years ago, plays third, along with sophomore Dara Davis.
The outfield is a “youth invasion,” Williams said. Sophomore Kassidy Thomas impressed Williams with her speed two years ago. Freshman Rae-Leigh Purvis and converted sophomore infielder Macie Howard are also vying for time on the grass.
Four Lady Cats were hitting north of .300 through eight games, led by Miller’s .450 mark, with seven RBIs. Rogers was batting .429, Hodson checked in at .391 with eight RBIs and 10 runs, and Bussell hit .316.
The Lady Panthers redeemed a 2-10 start in 2019 by winning 11 of their last 15 regular-season games, though the year ended with a loss to Bath County in the district tournament semifinals.
Fleming County brought back enough experience to expect to challenge again in district play. That group is led by senior Sidney Argo, who became the school’s all-time leading basketball scorer over the winter. She also puts up big numbers on the diamond, recording a .609 batting average as a sophomore to go along with 35 runs.
Senior Caroline Price returns in the circle. She worked 136 innings in 2019, going 9-13 with 79 strikeouts and 42 walks and a 3.45 ERA. Price also hit .400 and drove in a team-high 26 runs.
Among other returning regulars, senior Courtney Arrasmith drove in 22 runs and scored 16 in 2019, senior Mallory Donahue scored 19 times as a sophomore and senior Gracie Newsom hit .269 and knocked in 19 runs.
Freshman Sadie Price hit .340 in 16 games as a seventh-grader and scored 11 runs.
Argo has been credited with 18 hits in 24 at-bats this season entering play Tuesday (that’s a .750 average). Donahue is hitting .476 with eight RBIs and Newsom is batting .318.
According to their roster and statistics posted online in 2019, the Ladycats return just two of the 12 players who competed in 10 games or more two years ago — seniors Anabelle Smith and Deona Meadows.
Smith scored 16 runs and drove in 10 for Menifee County two years ago.
Attempts to ready Ladycats coach Karlee Willoughby for comment were unsuccessful before deadline.
Junior Haley Middleton takes over as the Lady Vikings’ No. 1 in the circle. She worked 44 1-3 innings two years ago, going 4-2 and posting a 2.37 ERA. Sophomore Bethany Sergent will pitch in as well.
Senior Kaelen Frazier and junior Macie Pennington will catch, while senior Trinity Hughes, sophomore Kandace Chandler — a West Carter transfer — and freshman Destiny Utterback were getting looks at first base.
Slone said Chandler and Utterback will start somewhere, but it was yet to be determined where as of the preseason because they were still playing basketball for the Lady Vikings.
Sophomore Haven Ford holds down shortstop, and junior Emily Hacker has moved across the diamond to third base.
Ford, Hacker and Sergent are Rowan County’s three returnees who played in 24 games or more in 2019. Ford hit .490, producing 42 runs and 35 RBIs with 20 doubles.
“Haven swings the bat as good as anybody in this region,” Slone said of the multi-sport star.
Hacker hit .291 two years ago, driving in 20 runs and scoring 17. Sergent batted .359, scoring 32 runs and knocking in 14.
Sophomore Kendall McDaniels was getting a long look at second. She scored 10 runs two years ago.
Utterback, Chandler, McDaniels, Sergent and Middleton are outfielders. Sergent will hold down center field when she isn’t pitching.
Hacker came out this spring on fire, hitting .769 through four games, driving in seven runs and plating eight.
Ford, Hughes and Middleton also batted north of .400 early on.
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Coach: Kenny Williams (11th year)
2019 record: 22-11
Where season ended: 16th Region Tournament quarterfinals
Coach’s outlook: “I’m pretty excited for this group, but like a lot of other teams we’ll have more questions than answers right now.”
29-at Wolfe County (L, 11-7); 30-at Bryan Station (W, 6-5)
2-Owsley County (W, 15-0); 3-vs. Johnson Central (L, 8-3), Lincoln County (W, 4-3) (Where’s the Beach Classic at Rockcastle County); 7-Bracken County (W, 8-0); 9-Henry Clay (W, 7-2), Russell (L, 8-5) (CSI Lady Cat Invitational); 12-at Henry Clay (L, 7-6); 13-at Montgomery County; 15-Bryan Station; 16-at Bracken County, Newport Central Catholic; 17-at Mason County, vs. Lexington Catholic (Keith Carver Classic); 19-at Nicholas County; 20-at Morgan County; 22-Rowan County; 23-St. Patrick; 26-Fleming County; 27-at Lewis County; 29-at Menifee County; 30-West Carter
1-Lee County, Breathitt County, Morgan County (David Iery Classic); 3-at Fleming County; 4-at Rowan County; 6-East Carter; 7-at Lee County; 8-vs. Notre Dame, Pendleton County (Tylar Missbach Memorial Showcase at Boyle County); 10-at Fairview; 11-Menifee County; 13-at Paris; 14-Lewis County; 15-at Owsley County; 17-at West Carter; 18-Montgomery County; 20-at Boyd County; 25-Fairvire; 26-Paris; 27-Ashland; 28-Mason County
Coach: Tanna Seuferer (third year)
2019 record: 13-15
Where season ended: 61st District Tournament semifinals
Coach’s outlook: “I look for us to be very competitive. We have eight seniors this season, so I look for them to lead our team and use their experience to push us toward success.”
29-at Montgomery County (W, 9-7); 30-at Nicholas County (W, 12-6)
2-Ryle (L, 11-5) (at George Rogers Clark); 3-Western Hills (L, 12-6), Wolfe County (L, 6-3) (at George Rogers Clark); 6-Lewis County (L, 13-1); 9-at Bracken County (W, 7-3); 13-at Rowan County; 16-Cabell Midland (Tri-State Showcase at Boyd County); 17-Lincoln County (Tri-State Showcase at Raceland); 19-Mason County; 20-Montgomery County; 22-at Menifee County; 26-at Bath County; 27-Rowan County; 30-Madison Southern (at Great Crossing)
1-Woodford County, Frederick Douglass (at Great Crossing); 3-Bath County; 4-Harrison County; 6-at George Rogers Clark; 7-Greenup County; 8-at Mason County, vs. Campbell County; 10-Robertson County; 12-at Lewis County; 13-at Bourbon County; 15-Raceland, Dixie Heights; 17-Russell; 18-Elliott County; 20-Bourbon County; 21-Morgan County; 24-at Harrison County; 25-at Greenup County; 28-Estill County
Coach: Karlee Willoughby (first year)
2019 record: 6-24
Where season ended: 61st District Tournament semifinals
Coach’s outlook: Did not respond.
30-at Wolfe County (L, 10-0)
7-at Jackson City (L, 13-0); 13-at Elliott County (16th Region All “A” Classic semifinals); 15-at Lee County; 20-at Magoffin County; 22-Fleming County; 23-at Rowan County (DH); 27-at East Carter; 28-West Carter; 29-Bath County, Morgan County
4-at Buckhorn; 5-at Elliott County; 6-Magoffin County; 8-Morgan County; 10-Lee County; 11-at Bath County; 13-Fairview; 18-Powell County; 20-at West Carter; 24-at Powell County; 26-Elliott County; 27-at Fairview
Coach: Larry Slone (27th year)
2019 record: 26-11
Where season ended: 16th Region Tournament semifinals
Coach’s outlook: “Very young and should get better as season progresses.”
30-Greenup County (L, 8-4)
1-Mason County (W, 19-5); 5-Ashland (W, 6-4); 6-at Bracken County (W, 15-3); 10-at Magoffin County (W, 8-0), Lawrence County (L, 15-1); 13-Fleming County; 14-East Carter; 16-at Boyd County; 17-Mercer County, South Point, Corbin (Tri-State Softball Showcase at Boyd County); 20-at Lewis County; 21-at Raceland; 22-at Bath County; 23-Menifee County (DH); 24-Cooper, Ryle (at Harrison County); 26-at Greenup County; 27-at Fleming County; 29-Elliott County
4-Bath County; 5-Lewis County; 8-Pikeville, Bracken County; 10-Johnson Central; 11-at Elliott County; 13-at Montgomery County; 15-at Estill County; 17-Raceland; 18-at Ashland; 22-Greenup County, Lawrence County; 24-at Wolfe County; 25-at Russell