I'm convinced that girls fastpitch softball pitchers have rubber arms.
The motion, I know, is commonly said to be natural, but it's still amazing to me how durable these girls are.
We have plenty of remarkable softball slingers in this region, but to throw around 20 innings over the course of three days won't be easy or natural at all.
Come Wednesday, both teams in the 16th Region Tournament championship games might have hurlers doing just that. The team who takes it all might need some more depth in the circle (hint: a team from Cannonsburg has that).
Baseball, well, that's a different story.
Three games in three days will be a true test of will, guts, fight, patience and, of course, pitching depth.
Will we have a heroic survivor emerge on the island that lies 60 feet, six inches away from home plate?
Ashland’s Logan Salow stood tall last season, as he battled through nine laborious innings over the course of two days to help the Tomcats eke out a pair of one-run victories in the 16th Region Tournament. He threw 171 total pitches in outlasting Russell and Boyd County.
Maybe somebody can put forth a duplicate dynamite effort this week — that would certainly make it easier for us media folk to vote for a Most Valuable Player. If you hadn’t seen, schools voted for the elimination of the All-Tournament Team this season, and left MVP selection duties to media that will be attending each game.
Considering the importance of every moment of every game, and considering the fact that only one of the eight baseball teams (Lewis County) managed to eclipse 250 runs scored, prime pitching should be on full display during much of this week’s action.
Coaches have mulled over decisions, endlessly playing out different scenarios in their heads while trying to squeeze in a few hours of sleep. Will teams go with their top arm in the first game? Or take the risk of saving him until the semifinals or finals?
Here is the KHSAA breakdown of how much rest a pitcher must have between appearances: 3-5 innings = 1 day rest starting following day; 6 innings = 2 days rest; 7-9 innings = 3 days rest.
In any case, fans should make a point to catch some of these first-round pitching matchups.
As if I needed to remind you who you're dealing with, the Quarterback/Point Guard/Shortstop hybrid has been a machine when it comes to predicting outcomes of high school sporting events — remember Fairview 36, Pikeville 14 in a Class A region football final, and Ashland 54, Boyd County 52 in the 16th Region girls basketball title game.
So, let’s do this!
Ashland-Lewis County — Set your alarms and don't hit snooze! Salow and Lewis County's Sammy Holder will put on a show from the mound in a game that could wrap up in less than an hour and a half. The experienced left-handed bats in the Tomcats' lineup do just enough to give Salow another region tournament win. Snyder says: Ashland 2, Lewis County 1.
East Carter-Rowan County — Cameron Planck dazzles with his sizzling mid-80s (miles per hour) fastball. While it can be an overwhelming stage for a freshman, the Vikings' offense supply him enough cushion in a mild upset. I say mild because Rowan County has won 16 of its last 21 games. Snyder says: Rowan County 6, East Carter 4.
Bath County-Boyd County — The mound matchup will more than likely be Cable Wright vs. Billy McCoy. Wright throws a low-90s fastball and Boyd County has had some issues with lefties. However, the Lions haven’t suffered a first-round exit since 2003, and McCoy is efficient. In fact, Boyd County can dig about four or five deep into the pitching pool if need be. The Lions have too much trouble scoring in this one, though. Snyder says: Bath County 3, Boyd County 2.
Greenup County-Morgan County — No offense to Morgan County, but all of the district champions were probably hoping to pick the Cougars in the first round. They're 18-9, but the schedule wasn't exactly grueling. Greenup County comes out on fire after missing the region tournament last year. Snyder says: Greenup County 7, Morgan County 2.
Ashland-Rowan County — The Tomcats get by the Vikings, but it'll be closer than one might think. Rowan County is not a power-hitting team, but it consistently makes solid contact up and down the lineup. If Ashland’s defense isn't shored up, it could encounter some trouble. According to Tomcats coach Jeff Wilcox, though, the gloves are ready to go. Snyder says: Ashland 5, Rowan County 3.
Bath County-Greenup County — Musketeers coach Greg Logan will have a decision to make here. Will he save ace Seth Boyle for the championship? He might be able to afford to, but these choices are always risky. Snyder says: Greenup County 6, Bath County 3.
Greenup County-Ashland — The Musketeers have toppled the Tomcats in both meetings this season. Make it three. A high-intensity, pressure-packed contest comes down to the seventh inning, and the Musketeer Magic (carried over from soccer season) continues. Snyder says: Greenup County 5, Ashland 4.
(At East Carter)
Russell-Menifee County — Another pitcher’s duel should be on tap as Russell’s Mallory Powell will go up against Menifee County's Erika Brewer. Snyder says: Russell 5, Menifee County 1.
East Carter-Boyd County — Both are 24-game winners, but Boyd County’s lineup is too experienced and powerful. Snyder says: Boyd County 10, East Carter 3.
Rowan County-Greenup County — Could it be another 13-inning classic for Greenup County? Probably not, but somebody's going to have to swing a clutch stick. Snyder says: Greenup County 4, Rowan County 3.
Ashland-West Carter — These meetings were lopsided during the regular season (17-1, 10-0) in Ashland’s favor. Snyder says: Ashland 8, West Carter 1.
Russell-Boyd County — Possibly the best game of the tournament (well maybe until the finals). Again, it comes down to the “E” word. Experience is still on Boyd County's side as Russell regularly plays two freshmen and three eighth-graders. And pitcher Lora Thompson, while just a sophomore, threw seven confident innings against the Lady Devils just a couple weeks ago. Snyder says: Boyd County 5, Russell 4.
Ashland-Greenup County — The Lady Musketeers shuffled their lineup throughout the season, and they finally have everything aligned for a postseason run. They make the Kittens quickly forget that Ashland actually beat this team 16-1 in April. Snyder says: Ashland 7, Greenup County 4.
Ashland-Boyd County — In most situations, it’d be nice to have a change of scenery. But this rivalry is just too compelling. For the fourth straight season, it comes down to the Kittens and Lady Lions. Ashland has won all three previous clashes, and 12 of the last 13 overall meetings, but the injury to key outfielder Sydney Whitt becomes too much to overcome as Boyd County gets it done. Snyder says: Boyd County 5, Ashland 3.
15th Region Note
Both Lawrence County baseball and Johnson Central softball head into the 15th Region Tournaments fresh off of 57th District championships.
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AARON SNYDER can be reached at email@example.com or (606) 326-2664.
I'm convinced that girls fastpitch softball pitchers have rubber arms.
- Local Sports
VIDEO: 16th Region semifinals highlights
Fleming County defeated Lewis County, 66-58, and Ashland beat Greenup County, 81-61, on Monday night at Morehead State University to set up tonight's championship matchup. Tipoff is set for 7.
Ashland cruises past Greenup to 16th Region championship game
Tyler Stewart is known for his unrelenting hustle as one of Ashland’s glue guys.
When the senior guard can pitch in some offense too, as he did Monday in the 16th Region Tournament semifinals, that’s just one more problem for Tomcats opponents.
Stewart scored 20 points, senior Steven Friley posted a double-double with 21 points and 14 rebounds, and Ashland outscored Greenup County 21-9 in the third quarter to break open what was a seven-point game at halftime and cruise past the Musketeers, 81-61.
Fleming battles back to 16th Region final
A healthy Wilder Williams this season has given Fleming County a whole new dimension.
Prior to his sophomore year, Williams sustained a football injury that resulted in three ankle surgeries and limited him to bench duty last season while the Panthers made their run to the 16th Region championship.
A physical 6-foot-3 player, Williams is making his presence felt around the basket as Fleming County looks to return to the Sweet Sixteen.
AARON SNYDER: Will the next hero be unmasked?
Who will the bat signal shine for tonight?
Or, should I say, the Cat signal?
In the third installment of a trilogy that might rival the Batman three-pack of “Batman Begins,” “The Dark Knight” and “The Dark Knight Rises,” Fleming County and Ashland will battle in a matchup that has produced a classic clash in each of the last two 16th Region Tournaments.
If the first two collectively served as a gradual progressions to tonight’s scene, the climax could be off the charts.
Corey Gregg was Ashland’s superhero in 2012, when the senior confidently fired a perfect 3-point shot from the right corner. The triple thrust the Tomcats and Panthers into overtime, from which Ashland emerged 79-73 in a first-round game.
Central wins, Lawrence falls in 15th
The biggest concern for Lawrence County coach Josh Cook was staying out of foul trouble.
His team stayed in it all night, and it cost them a spot in the 15th Region title game.
Shelby Valley senior Tyler Carr led four players in double figures with 19 points as the Wildcats knocked off Lawrence County, 72-60, in the semifinals of the 15th Region Tournament at the East Kentucky Expo Center.
“This one hurts,” said Cook. “We’ll learn from this, and I have no doubt that our kids will get back here and finish the job.”
- Fleming hangs tough to beat Lewis Fleming County locked into another fight against Lewis County, which beat the Panthers earlier this season, before winning 66-58 on Monday in Morehead. Wilder Williams posted a double-double of 19 points and 10 rebounds to lead the Panthers, who face Ashland on Tuesday at 7 p.m.
- GALLERY: Ashland gets by Greenup County, will meet Fleming in region final Ashland's Steven Friley scored 21 points Monday to lead the Tomcats to an 81-61 win over Greenup County in the 16th Region semifinal in Morehead.
Kittens clamoring for more at state
Ashland girls basketball coaches went the extra mile, and a whole bunch more, to get a first-hand scouting report on the Kittens’ opponent for the State Tournament.
Head coach Bill Bradley and assistant Phil Wittich drove all the way to Henderson — 5 hours, 20 minutes one way Bradley said on the way home — to take in Sunday’s Second Region championship game.
Henderson County, playing on its home floor, defeated University Heights 67-54. The Lady Colonels went unbeaten in their region this season and are 24-5 overall.
EKC hands out hardware
The Eastern Kentucky Conference handed out its 2014 awards on Monday afternoon at a luncheon at Carter Caves.
Barracudas earn kudos from coach
Ashland Area YMCA swimmers impressed coach Ryan Ferguson from start to finish in the three-day Kentucky Y Competitive Swim League State Meet.
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- VIDEO: 16th Region semifinals highlights