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 firstname.lastname@example.org or (606) 326-2664.