QUICK HITTER STORY/Spartans’ Hudson sets single-season KHSAA hits record as South Warren clobbers E-Town, 11-2, in state tourney opener


LEXINGTON — They came to make a statement.

Did they ever.

South Warren took control in the opening moments of Friday morning’s first-round KHSAA state tournament game and never relinquished it, rolling to an impressive 11-2 victory over Elizabethtown High School before a crowd of 1,087 at UK’s John Cropp Stadium.

The Spartans improved to 38-3 overall and will face the winner of Friday’s first-round game between Lexington Catholic (26-2) and Montgomery County (28-6) in Saturday evening’s quarterfinals. McLane Hudson, South’s sophomore star shortstop, went 3-for-5 against E-Town, with a leadoff triple in the first inning and a two-run home run to right-center field in the fourth.

South Warren collected 11 hits against E-Town pitcher Taytum Spiers, rocking her with three home runs — Layla Ogden and Courtney Norwood went yard in the top of the third — while capitalizing on three Lady Panthers errors and Spiers’ trouble finding the strike zone in the middle innings.

“We started off hitting, which kind of made a statement,” South Warren coach Kelly Reynolds said. “I think any time you can get on top of a team, and they have to fight from behind all the time … it just makes it harder.

“I thought we did really good at the plate today.”

No one had more of an impact than Hudson, the Spartans’ do-it-all shortstop who took a .640 batting average in the state tournament.

See, Hudson went 3-for-5, and her batting average actually WENT DOWN after such a strong showing at the plate. Hudson lashed a leadoff triple to the left-field corner in the first inning before scoring on Kinleigh Russell’s sacrifice fly to deep center field.

The next two South Warren batters, Hadley Borders and Layla Ogden, hit the ball hard, too, with Borders scoring from first on Ogden’s line-drive single to right field and subsequent E-Town error.

“Offensively, we put the ball in play,” Hudson said. “We worked against a really good pitcher (former WKU right-hander Katie Gardner, a former Warren East standout) in practice this week, and she really helped us get prepared for what we’d see in this tournament.”

Ogden was the winning pitcher, working the first four innings before yielding to Norwood for the bottom of the fifth.

Ogden, a 5-foot-10 sophomore, struck out eight batters while walking three. She remained unbeaten in 19 decisions, surrendering two runs on Taytum Spiers’ two-run double to the left-field corner with one out in the third. Ogden struck out the next two batters she faced, however, and the Spartans would then strike for four runs in the top of the fourth to go into cruise-control mode.

McLaine Hudson belted a two-run home run to right-center field in the top of the fourth, a towering shot and her team-leading 22nd homer of the season. Her three hits for the game pushed Hudson to 92 hits for the season, moving past previous state record holder Kaylee Tow of Madisonville-North Hopkins. The former University of Alabama standout finished with 90 hits in 2015.

“It’s pretty exciting,” Hudson said. “It was a goal of mine. Sure.”

Norwood was dominant in the circle, after taking over for Ogden for the fifth inning. She struck out eight batters, while challenging the E-Town batters with a big lead in the late innings.

Two errors by Elizabethtown’s left fielder helped South Warren extend its lead to 9-2 in the top of the fourth.

The Spartans played errorless softball, and sophomore catcher Hayden Holloway twice asked for help from the umpires on check-swing third strikes in the second inning.

Truth be told, South Warren couldn’t have asked for a better start to the tournament. Ogden and Norwood said they planned to return to the stadium to get a look at the Lexington Catholic-Montgomery County game. Lexington Catholic handed the Spartans one of their three losses this season, a 1-0 victory on April 27 in a tournament at Lexington’s Lafayette High School.

“We like to remind our girls, you don’t stop, until the umpire says, ‘Ballgame,'” South Warren coach Kelly Reynolds said. “We like to talk about three words. Dominate, compete, fight. Nothing is going to come easy at this tournament. It’s a dogfight.”

I’ll have more on the game tomorrow morning at jimmashek.com. Thanks for reading.