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).