|PHOTO: Allen Ramsey, DWCPhoto.com. Newport Central Catholic senior shorstop Michaela Ware ranges to make a catch in the fourth inning of Monday's 9th Region quarterfinal game at Northern Kentucky University.|
The Notre Dame Pandas happened to be the opponent three years ago when the Newport Central Catholic Thoroughbreds last won a 9th Region Softball Tournament game at Northern Kentucky University.
NewCath beat Notre Dame, 9-4 in the region quarterfinals that year before losing 10-1 to Conner in the semifinals. The 2012 season also happened to be the last year NewCath won 20 games in a season entering this year.
NewCath hit the 20-win plateau this season, but could not pull off its first 9th Region Tournament win since 2012. The Pandas (24-6 overall) erased an early NewCath (20-11) lead scoring six in a row to win 6-2 and advance to the region semifinals for the third straight year at the same location.
"We played okay. We just have a blow-up inning all the time," said Denny Barnes, NewCath Head Coach. "They're just better than us."
Notre Dame outhit NewCath just 6-5. But the Pandas took advantage of six walks and two hit batters.
The Thoroughbreds had just one runner after the second inning. That came in the seventh inning when Kennedy Bin reached on an error.
Both pitchers went the distance. Notre Dame senior Haylee Smith struck out seven and walked none while NewCath sophomore Haley Meyers also struck out seven.
Neither team saw one batter record more than one hit. But Bin and Notre Dame's Kennedy Baugh had doubles. Gabby Miller and Cori Ladanyi had two RBI each for the Pandas.
The Thoroughbreds scored twice in the first inning. Casey Kohls, Meyers and Kristen Schreiber recorded three straight singles to load the bases. With two out, Morgan Martini singled to score Kohls. Meyers then came home on an error before Schreiber was thrown out trying to score.
NewCath held the lead into the second inning. With one out, Ladanyi hit a single to right just out of the reach of the Thoroughbred defense to score sisters Erica and Angela Huston to tie the game.
The Thoroughbreds took the lad for good in the third. Baugh doubled, moved to third when Smith grounded out and scored when Miller singled. The Pandas added three more in the fourth to make the final score.
NewCath graduates five seniors from the squad. All five start and make up five of the first six batters. They are shorstop Michaela Ware, Kohls, Schreiber, third baseman Loren Zimmerman and Martini.
"It's not easy having five seniors on a team because you have five egos," Barnes said. "They've done a great job keeping their egos in check this year. I was really proud of the seniors. They've done a wonderful job and I'm going to miss them."
The seniors helped NewCath to 36th District titles as freshmen and sophomores in addition to four appearances in the region tournament. NewCath also won the All "A" 9th Region title in 2014.