COUGARS CONQUEST/Shayla Johnson, Logan County hold on for 4-3 victory over No. 1-ranked South Warren


They trailed throughout, but South Warren High School’s fast-pitch softball team has been known for impressive comebacks in recent years.

Logan County, meanwhile, was looking for a signature victory heading into postseason play, next week’s KHSAA district tournaments.

Just one of those two narratives would prevail on a damp Wednesday afternoon at the South Warren softball park, and Logan County pitcher Shayla Johnson made sure it was the Cougars who would enjoy the short road trip back to Russellville after the high-profile matchup.

Johnson scattered six hits while striking out five batters, guiding Logan County to a tense 4-3 victory over the Spartans, the No. 1-ranked team in the Commonwealth for virtually the entire season.

South Warren didn’t score until the fifth inning, and the Spartans had the tying run at second base with just one out in the bottom of the seventh. Johnson, however, retired South’s Hadley Borders on a fly ball to center field before ending it by striking out two-way star Layla Ogden, sending the Spartans to just their second defeat in more than two months.

South Warren takes an impressive 32-3 record into Friday’s home finale against Woodford County, before opening the KHSAA 14th District Tournament next week against Warren Central at Bowling Green High School. The Cougars earned their 25th victory of the season against four defeats, and they’ll play host to both Christian County and Glasgow before opening 13th District play next week at Todd County Central.

“It gives us a lot of confidence, for sure,” Logan County shortstop Nora Epley said. “We beat ’em here last year, so we felt pretty confident (beforehand) …”

It was a reflective moment for the tradition-rich South Warren program, still looking for its first state championship after years of excellence on Nashville Road. Seventh-year head coach Kelly Reynolds met with her team for more than 10 minutes on the outfield grass before the Spartans went their separate ways.

Over the last four seasons, South Warren has posted an amazing 135-14 record, with the lone state tournament appearance coming in 2022, when the Spartans reached the semifinals.

“Winning games 18-0 and 13-0 is nice (like South did in Saturday’s Best of the West Softball Showcase at Buchanon Park), but we need games like this,” Reynolds said. “We need to play in some tight ones. You learn from your losses, you learn what you need to do different, the next time you play.

“We weren’t as competitive at the plate as we usually are.”

Logan’s Shayla Johnson had a lot to do with that, of course, in earning her 14th victory of the season against three losses. Reynolds wanted to start senior pitcher Olivia Skaggs on Senior Night, but she had to turn to sophomore right-hander Layla Ogden, one of her two aces — freshman right-hander Courtney Norwood is the other one — after Logan County threatened with two outs in the bottom of the second inning.

Ogden struggled with a tight strike zone with the first two batters she faced, issuing back-to-back walks to Emerson McKinnis and Trinity Case. That pushed the Cougars’ lead to 3-0, and Logan County added another run on a hard-hit grounder from Sydni Blick that went for an error into left field. Ogden retired the next eight batters she faced, and kept South withing striking distance, but the Cougars never trailed in snapping the Spartans’ winning streak at six games.

“It’s a great win for our team,” Logan County coach Gary Gettings told Franklin Favorite sports editor Brian Davis after the game. “The extra day (Tuesday’s rainout pushed the game back one day) probably helped us. The girls were locked in.

“Shayla (Johnson) really hit her corners (in the circle).”

South Warren didn’t score until the bottom of the fifth inning, when Alexis Martin and star shortstop McLaine Hudson reached on singles before scoring on Kinleigh Russell’s two-out double to right-center field. Russell drove in the Spartans’ other run, too, slapping an RBI single up the middle with one out in the seventh inning.

That’s when Johnson retired Hadley Borders and Layla Ogden to complete the task at hand, and put a damper on the Spartans’ Senior Night.

“You just have to trust your instincts, your pitches, and believe in your defense,” Johnson said.

South Warren remains a proficient offensive team, with a star sophomore shortstop, McLaine Hudson, a young but talented roster, and a terrific 1-2 pitching tandem in sophomore Layla Ogden and freshman Courtney Norwood. With the postseason fast approaching, the Spartans know the territory.

“You always want to be humble in victory, and dignified in defeat,” South coach Kelly Reynolds said. “There was a different kind of vibe tonight in the dugout, we were a little concerned …

“We told the girls at practice, that Logan County’s a ‘sleeper.’ They beat us last year, in a one-run game (13-12). There’s a lot of good teams out there. We’re going to get everyone’s best.”