QUICK HITTER STORY/South Warren’s Ogden dominates Lexington Catholic, Spartans squeeze out 1-0 victory to reach KHSAA state semifinals


LEXINGTON — The South Warren High School softball team made it happen Saturday night against Lexington Catholic in quarterfinal play of the KHSAA State Tournament.

The Spartans scratched out a single run off Lexington Catholic ace Abby Hammond in the top of the fourth inning, with star shortstop McLaine Hudson scoring from third base on teammate Hadley Borders’ one-out, line-drive single down the left-field line.

South Warren’s Layla Ogden replaced teammate Courtney Norwood in the circle for the top of the third inning, and the 5-foot-10 sophomore dominated the Lady Knights over five innings to send her team to the KHSAA state semifinals for the second time in three years. Ogden didn’t give up a hit while striking out seven batters and walking three.

Ogden retired the side in order in the bottom of the seventh inning, ending the game with LexCath’s star, Hammond, on the on-deck circle. Ogden remained unbeaten in 20 decisions, while Hammond took the loss for the Lady Knights, finishing 27-3.

(Hammond pitched every inning of every game for Lexington Catholic this season. She’s on her way to play for the University of Kentucky.)

The Spartans celebrated on the dirt inside UK’s John Cropper Stadium, and they’ll now face McCracken County (31-7) or Henderson County (33-5) in next week’s KHSAA state semifinals on Friday night. Seventh-year coach Kelly Reynolds was thrilled with her squad’s ability to handle the pressure and focus on the task at hand.

“One run, sometimes that’s all you need to win a game,” Reynolds said.

Reynolds had planned to use both Layla Ogden and South teammate Courtney Norwood in the circle against Lexington Catholic, but she turned to Ogden for the bottom of the third, and Ogden retired six of the first seven batters she faced.

The Spartans scored the game’s only run in the top of the third.

Leadoff batter McLaine Hudson lined Hammond’s first pitch into left field for a single, and she immediately stole second base. After South’s Kinleigh Russell was retired on a fly ball to shallow left field, Hudson moved into third base after an error in the LCHS outfield.

That brought sophomore center fielder Hadley Borders to the plate, and Borders delivered an RBI single inside the left-field foul line, a line drive that brought Hudson home for the only run of the game.

“It was a 1-1 pitch, and I was looking for the ball on the outer half of the plate,” Borders said. “(Hammond) has a great changeup and she works both sides of the plate. She’ll get you to chase (bad pitches) …

“My teammates had my back.”

The Spartans caught a break in the bottom of the sixth, when they had a base runner with one out and Kinley Willoughby hit a spinner in front of the plate.

It was going to be a difficult chance for anyone in the South Warren infield — Ogden, catcher Hayden Holloway or charging first baseman Courtney Norwood — but the ball hit Willoughby, who was ruled out, sending the Lady Knight’s Ava Emmert back to second base, now with two outs.

Ogden then induced a wormburner ground ball inside the third-base line, and South’s Briley Pruitt made a decisive defensive play, fielding the ball before firing across the diamond to retire LexCath’s Caitlyn Kelley by a step at first.

In the seventh, Ogden struck out the first two batters she faced, the Lady Knights’ Sydney Ford on a called third strike. Then Kelley lofted a pop fly to shallow left field, and McLaine Hudson made the catch to end the game and send the Spartans to the semifinals.

“I’m so proud of all our girls,” South coach Kelly Reynolds said via text message on the bus back to Bowling Green.

I’ll have a complete story on the game on Sunday morning at jimmashek.com. Thanks for reading. The Spartans will be coming back to Lexington in a few days, with a collective eye on the school’s first state championship in fast-pitch softball.

“This win gives us some confidence,” South’s Layla Ogden said before leaving the stadium. “We’re definitely ‘all in.'”

Thanks for reading.