A longtime fixture in the 64th District softball championship game, Boyd County looked different this return trip.
The Lady Lions defeated Fairview 10-5 in Monday’s district semifinal, which doubled as an Autism Awareness Night. Boyd County players wore light blue shirts and colorful, jigsaw puzzle socks for the event, which had to be rescheduled more than once due to weather problems.
Senior players Emily Stewart and Nicole Goins spearheaded efforts for the special game, then both turned in key offensive roles.
Stewart homered, doubled, drove in three runs and also scored three times. Goins went 3-for-4 with four runs batted in.
“Emily worked tirelessly on this, and Nicole was right there, too,” Boyd County coach Geoff Stewart said. “We weren’t able to get our autism game going during the season. Fairview cooperated to make it possible tonight.”
With the victory, the Lady Lions advanced to the district final for the sixth consecutive year and will meet top-seeded Ashland in Wednesday’s 6 p.m. title game.
Leadoff batter Hunter Reeves got Boyd County off to a rousing start with a home run to straightaway center. It came as a pleasant surprise to the eighth-grader, who has been a catalyst for the 24-10 team down the stretch.
“I’ve never hit one,” Reeves said. “I hit the fence once in practice. It felt great to see the ball go over.”
Boyd County dominated the two earlier matchups between the teams 20-1 and 13-0 last month. The Lady Lions built a 9-0 lead after five innings this time, but young Fairview wouldn’t fold.
Instead of succumbing to another mercy rule, the Lady Eagles scored twice in the sixth and eighth-grader Cassidy Roy smacked a three-run homer in the seventh.
“This team doesn’t cease to amaze me,” said second-year Fairview coach Lauren Ellis, a former Boyd County standout who guided a group of mostly underclassmen to 17 wins this season. “They learned how to play the game. Tonight, we made Boyd County play a full game.”
Ellis began her BCHS career as an eighth-grader in 2001, the same year Geoff Stewart took over as head coach at the school.
“I grew up in Boyd County’s program,” Ellis said. “Geoff Stewart is the kind of coach I aspire to be. They are top notch as a team. I knew coming in, and want our girls to learn what it takes to play for district and region championships.”
Stewart is impressed with the change at Fairview.
“Two years with Lauren and you can already see a big difference,” he said. “If people leave her alone and let her do her job, they will be very competitive in the region.”
Boyd County has won 13 of its last 14 games this season, but Stewart wasn’t thrilled with the latest performance.
“I think we came in with the mindset that we had beaten them badly two times,” the coach said. “We were kind of back on our heels. We swung at a lot of bad pitches. We were lucky to get 10 runs out of the deal.”
The Lady Lions finished with 11 hits.
Emily Stewart hit a solo shot in the third, then lined a two-run double the next inning. She scored on Goins’ second RBI single of the game to make it 7-0. Reeves, who is in her first year as a regular, showed her versatility by putting down a bunt single during the fourth.
“Hunter has come a long way since the beginning of the season,” her coach said. “She’s fast, knows how to handle the bat and plays a very good center field.”
Goins expanded the cushion by doubling home Taylor Wheeler and Stewart in the fifth.
Meanwhile, Boyd County junior Alex Meade pitched a complete game, allowing eight hits, four walks and a hit batter. She struck out three.
Fairview (17-13) got three singles from sophomore catcher Maddie Kirk. Eryn Burke’s squeeze bunt in the sixth scored Kara Adkins with the Lady Eagles’ first run and Tayler Thompson followed with a run-producing single.
Roy’s homer with two aboard in the seventh inning was her third this season.
“She has such a beautiful cut,” Ellis said. “I’m looking foward to what she can do the next four years.”
FAIRVIEW 000 002 3 — 5 8 2
BOYD CO. 202 321 x — 10 11 1
T. Thompson, Dunn (4), T. Thompson (6) and Kirk; Meade and Stewart, Roark (6). W—Meade. L—T. Thompson. 2B—B. Thompson (F), Stewart (BC), N. Goins (BC). HR—Reeves (BC), Stewart (BC).