Boyd County found Ashland’s Megan Hensley nearly unhittable Thursday.
That’s been the trend this week.
Hensley, who fired consecutive no-hitters against Wayne (WV) and West Carter on Monday and Tuesday, followed up with another sparkling performance against district and region rival Boyd County.
The impressive sophomore racked up 16 strikeouts and allowed only a single as Ashland won 5-1 to sweep the regular-season series.
“I thought Megan threw a phenomenal game,” Kittens coach Dave Miller said. “Really good command. She did a great job working the outside and was effective coming inside. She froze them a few times.”
Boyd County hitters had a difficult time making adjustments. Earlier this month, Hensley pitched a three-hitter against them in Ashland’s 3-0 win.
“She’s been really tough on us,” said Boyd County coach Geoff Stewart, who would like to see more discipline from his team at the plate against Ashland’s ace.
“Until we learn to hit pitches in the strike zone, we’re not going to be successful against them,” Stewart said.
Hensley rang up three strikeouts in both the first and second innings, then fanned two batters each frame the rest of the way.
“I feel like I came out pretty strong and focused,” she said. “I walked more tonight (two) than the past two games, but I can’t complain. All in all, I pitched alright.”
One of the few times Boyd County did put the ball in play, Ashland center fielder Sydney Whitt made perhaps the defensive gem of the year in area softball.
The play came at the beginning of the sixth inning. Whitt made a long sprint into right field, then went airborne on a fully-extended drive to snag Taylor Wheeler’s drive just before it could touch the grass.
Whitt described it all as a blur.
“I saw Jordan (Meade) was playing back a little bit in right field and might not be able to get to it,” Whitt said. “I called for it early and kept going as hard as a I could. The other day, I dove for a ball and it bounced out of my glove. I held on to this one.”
“Unbelievable,” Miller said. “Sydney got such a great jump and ran probably 65 to 75 feet just to give herself a chance. It was just a phenomenal play. You don’t see those catches in softball.”
Miller has grown accustomed to outstanding defense in center field. Kat Jackson, who graduated last spring, set a high standard at Ashland with her ability to track down would-be hits. Whitt possesses great range and Tuesday’s grab had the place buzzing.
Said Stewart: “That’s one of the better catches I’ve seen in a long time for an outfielder to make.”
Hensley could hardly believe it either.
“I was saying to myself the ball is down,” Hensley said. “Sydney went a long way and comes up holding the ball. It was perfect.”
Hensley helped her own cause with a run-scoring single up the middle in the first inning and RBI groundout in the third. She also reached on an infield single.
Freshman Katie Baldock knocked in the Kittens’ first run with a triple after Whitt was safe on an error and stole second.
Boyd County’s Taylor Wheeler manufactured a run in the third to make it 2-1. Wheeler singled to right, swiped second, then went to third on a delayed steal and continued home thanks to an errant throw.
Ashland (15-7) answered with a run in the bottom of the inning. Baldock doubled and came around on groundouts by McKenzie Vanover and Hensley.
“Kate was our catalyst at the plate today,” Miller said. “She’s been swinging the bat well the last three or four games. She’s also been good at getting a bunt down any time we need it.”
That included the sixth inning Thursday. After Jordan Meade singled down the left-field line and catcher Sydney Campbell bunted for a hit, Baldock’s sacrifice put runners at second and third. Vanover followed with a two-run double off the right-field fence to extend the lead to 5-1.
Hannah Irvine pitched into the sixth inning for Boyd County (11-8) before Lora Thompson relieved.
“Hannah pitched a whale of a game,” Stewart said.
Boyd County shortstop Emily Stewart, one of the area’s top players, missed the game due to a senior trip.
BOYD CO. 001 000 0 — 1 1 3
ASHLAND 201 002 x — 5 8 2
Irvine, Thompson (6) and Roark; Hensley and Campbell. W—Hensley. L—Irvine. 2B—Baldock (A), McKenzie (A). 3B—Baldock (A).
Boyd County found Ashland’s Megan Hensley nearly unhittable Thursday.
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Panthers pound Ashland for repeat trip to Rupp (with video)
The Fleming County Panthers waited nearly an hour to ascend the ladders set up under the goals at Ellis T. Johnson Arena on Tuesday night.
To the victor belongs the spoils, which traditionally includes the nets after winning a tournament title. But Fleming County milled around on Morehead State’s floor taking pictures and soaking in the atmosphere after handling Ashland 82-59 in the 16th Region Tournament final.
Snipping the twine was almost an afterthought. In fact, except for a minute or so of celebration with their student section immediately following the final buzzer, the Panthers didn’t really even seem all that excited.
They expected to be here, and they were all business after earning back-to-back region titles and trips to Rupp Arena.
AARON SNYDER: Truth or Dare unkind to ’Cats
Ashland was left feeling like the shy kid after an intense game of Truth or Dare.
Truth: Fleming County outrebounded Ashland, 39-24, after Ashland outdueled Greenup County by 10 the night before.
'Relaxed' Steward earns MVP award
Both Fleming County coach Mark Starns and stellar senior Troy Steward attributed his significant strides this season to aggressiveness.
Playing a part, too, in Steward earning the 16th Region Tournament Most Valuable Player award was the lack of nerves, which were nearly overwhelming at times a year ago.
Central's 15th Region reign continues
Once was good.
Twice was nice.
Three was sweet for the Johnson Central Eagles.
Senior Slade McPeek scored 22 points and earned most valuable player honors Tuesday night as Johnson Central rolled past Shelby Valley, 81-56, for its third straight 15th Region championship at the East Kentucky Expo Center.
- Fleming goes for two: Panthers beat Ashland for 16th Region repeat Fleming County pulled away early and never looked back as the Panthers pounced on Ashland, winning 82-59 in the 16th Region championship game on Tuesday in Morehead. Fleming County will face Scott County in the Sweet Sixteen next Wednesday at Rupp Arena.
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.”
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- Panthers pound Ashland for repeat trip to Rupp (with video)