For the Warren East softball team, the waiting is the hardest part.
After having the KHSAA Fast Pitch State Softball Tournament wiped out last week because of rain, Warren East – and the other seven remaining teams – will try again this weekend, with the Lady Raiders opening play against Ashland Blazer at noon CDT Friday at John Cropp Stadium at the University of Kentucky in Lexington.
It will be the first time in 13 days that any of the eight teams remaining will take the field.
For a tournament that is already in new territory – switching from double elimination to single elimination – the long layoff is another wrinkle. Warren East coach Philip McKinney said he thinks he has a team that can handle the layoff.
“If we were a bunch of eighth-graders and freshmen and a few sophomores I don’t know where our heads would be, but I truly believe the schedule the last three years and the fact the majority of them are juniors and seniors is going to help quite a bit in this situation,” McKinney said.
After rain washed out play Friday, McKinney said he gave his team the entire weekend off – giving them a chance to get away from softball for a few days. The players returned to practice Tuesday, where they had an intrasquad scrimmage.
“It’s been a long school year and a lot of my girls play two sports and a handful of them play three sports,” McKinney said. “A lot of them are ready to move on, ready for the season to be over with. They want to do the best that we can, but this season has drawn out quite a bit. Spring sports are hard. It’s hard to coach because there is a lot going on at the end of the year. That’s another reason why I wanted to get away for three days.”
Not every player completely got away from softball. Katie Gardner said she kept her routine in preparation for this weekend.
“Coach has given us a few days, but of course I’m never off,” Gardner said. “I continued pitching every other day. I hit and hopefully everybody else has been doing the same.”
Gardner will arrive in Lexington as the reigning Miss Softball, as well as a first team Class 2A all-state selection along with teammates Jeyda Bays, Hailey Hymer and Olivia Price.
“They always wait until after the state tournament (to announce the awards), just so the kids won’t feel any extra pressure of making all-state or winning Miss Softball or whatever,” McKinney said. “This year, everybody knows, so that is another unique thing going on here.”
Gardner said she won’t feel any added pressure because she is Miss Softball when she takes the circle Friday.
“I think it is going to be different, but it was going to be different anyway because it’s at UK,” Gardner said. “I hope we can settle in and just keep doing what we’ve been doing.”
What the Lady Raiders have done in a quest to get back to the state championship game is go 34-2, bouncing back from a loss in the District 14 championship game to outscore opponents 27-3 in three Region 4 games and roll past Daviess County 10-1 in the Semi-State 2 game on June 1.
But the roll the Lady Raiders were on has been stymied by the 13-day break. McKinney said the layoff isn’t ideal, but ultimately it doesn’t change the goal – win a state title.
“Even if you don’t play spring break you are not off 13 days, but we are going to go with it,” McKinney said. “There is nothing else we can do. We will get back into a groove. To be honest with you, I am really not worried about my girls. We are going to go up and we are going to make mistakes, but we are going to play softball. That’s what they know and that’s what they do best.”