LADY GATORS WILL TANGLE WITH DEFENDING STATE CHAMPION BALLARD HIGH SCHOOL IN SATURDAY’s QUARTERFINALS
LEXINGTON — Greenwood High School’s softball team has made an immediate impact on the KHSAA state tournament at the University of Kentucky’s John Cropp Field.
The Lady Gators, making a state tourney appearance for the first time since 2014, used a two-out, two-run home run from 8th grader Macie Murray, the team’s starting catcher, to eliminate Louisville’s Mercy Academy 2-0 on Thursday evening in first-round play.
Murray’s elder sister, Greenwood pitcher Kayden Murray, was nothing short of masterful in earning her 14th victory of the season against six defeats. Murray, a senior right-hander, stopped the Jaguars on two hits while recording 19 strikeouts. She walked just one batter, and Mercy failed to get a base runner to third base over the course of nine innings.
Macie Murray erased the Jaguars’ Dakota Burke, on a stolen-base attempt, with a throw to third base that retired the side in the top of the fourth inning.
The Murray sisters stayed ahead of the Mercy batters in the count, and Kayden Murray recorded at least one strikeout in each of the nine innings.
Kayden Murray struck out the side in the third.
Greenwood improved to 20-13 overall and will face defending state champion Ballard High School, also out of Louisville, in quarterfinal play at 11 a.m. EDT on Saturday. Ballard eliminated Woodford County, 4-0, in first-round play, in the late game on Thursday night.
Ballard also slipped past Greenwood, 1-0, in a non-district game on April 14 in Louisville.
It’s the matchup first-year Greenwood coach Rod Bush anticipated, provided the Lady Gators could take care of business against Mercy.
“I think we’ll be ready for Ballard,” Bush said.
Kayden Murray was certainly ready for Mercy Academy, which finished its season at 27-7.
“I really just tried to work on hitting my spots, getting the right spin on the ball,” she said.
Kayden Murray didn’t give up a hit until the top of the fourth inning, when the Jaguars’ Dakota Burke connected on a soft line drive into center field for a one-out single.
Burke quickly stole second base, and after the ball got away from Macie Murray, behind the plate, for just an instant, she tried to follow suit to third.
Murray fired the ball to freshman shortstop Caydence Wolfe, covering the bag after the Lady Gators’ Lydia Kirby charged in from third to field a potential bunt to the left side.
Kayden Murray gave up one other hit, Maya Merrill’s one-out double down the left field line in the top of the eighth. Kayden Murray struck out the next two batters she faced, keeping the game scoreless heading into the bottom of the inning.
Merrill was the losing pitcher, dropping to 13-4 on the season.
Macie Murray said Merrill had been pitching her inside in previous at bats, so she had an idea she’d take a similar approach in the bottom of the ninth inning.
“I really hadn’t been able to ‘barrel it’ up there,” Murray said. “She came back inside, and I definitely was able to barrel it up that time.”
The homer quickly sailed over the left-field fence. It was Macie Murray’s third home run of the season.
I’ll have complete coverage on the game Friday morning, before moving on to the South Warren baseball team’s first-round state tournament game against Breathitt County at Counter Clocks Field.
Thanks for reading.