By John Lachmann
ERLANGER, Ky. – It would have been hard to pick a more climactic point for the Region 9 championship game to be suspended.
When the game is resumed at noon on Saturday, Ryle sophomore first baseman Kelsey Hammes – who is 2-for-2 with two of the Raiders’ four hits – will have a 2-2 count with two outs in the bottom of the sixth.
Junior second baseman McKell Oliverio will return to second base, and the scoreboard will reflect Conner’s 1-0 lead.
“We’ll just stay focused and get our work done and we’ll be ready to go,” Ryle coach Patti Oliverio said. “I feel good about out chances.”
The forecast for the regional final was bleak. Strong storms were predicted for the early evening hours, and the game was slated for 7 p.m.
Rain clouds rolled in during the game, but while light thunder rumbled ominously in the distance, it appeared the game might be completed.
That was until a dramatic bolt of lightning struck to the southeast of the field, directly in the sightline of the third base umpire, who immediately waived his arms to call for the stoppage.
After both teams sat in their respective dugouts and heavy rain started to fall on the freshly-applied tarp, it became obvious the game would not be completed on Thursday.
“It’s definitely tough,” Conner coach Kristin Koors said. “I think it’s going to be hard on both teams. It puts both teams in a bad position, having to wait around.”
The decision to complete the game on Saturday was made by the tournament director. Other obligations prevented the final from being resumed Friday.
“I kind of feel like we’re in a little bit better position because we have that one run going into that inning,” Koors said. “It’s always nice to know that we have two outs. We just need to get that one out to get out of the inning.”
When the game was suspended, Conner freshman right-hander Elizabeth Sims had allowed just six baserunners, with one reaching on an error. She had fanned six.
Ryle sophomore right-hander has surrendered six hits and a walk through six innings.
The Cougars scored the lone run with two outs in the top of the third. Sophomore left fielder Sydney Himes singled with one out, and she advanced to second on a sacrifice.
Himes made a wide turn at second base, and Ryle threw to third, but the ball sailed down the left field line and Himes came all the way around to score.
Conner had a chance to extend the lead in the top of the sixth when the first two hitters reached on singles.
Seventh-grade designated player Kayla Ellis advanced the runners with a sacrifice, and freshman first baseman Carlie Roark laid down a bunt that Crupper fielded cleanly. She threw to first, where Oliverio was covering the bag, and the runner on third tried to score.
But Oliverio recorded the out at first and fired a strike to eighth-grade catcher McKenzi Dickerson, who made the tag on senior shortstop Ellery Kring to complete the 1-4-2 double play.
Oliverio is just the third Raider to reach second base, and Hammes’ at-bat is just Ryle’s third with a runner in scoring position.
Hammes singled to lead off the bottom of the second, and Crupper bunted a ball into herself. The initial call was that it hit her in the box and was a foul ball, but after a brief huddle the ultimate ruling was that Crupper was outside the box and she was called out.
Hammes did advance to second on a ground ball by Dickerson, but a strikeout ended the inning.
Raiders freshman shortstop Haylee Smith walked to start the fourth inning, and she moved to second on a sacrifice but took a wide turn at second and Conner threw behind her.
Again there was a brief conference between the umpires before Smith was called out.
Oliverio reached on an error to start the sixth, and she moved to second on a groundout to third base by Smith. Sophomore clean-up hitter and left fielder Katelyn Stephens hit the ball well, but it was caught by Cougars senior center fielder Paige Volz.
Hammes stepped in, but her at-bat was halted four pitches in.
“We’ve played in a lot of tournaments where we’ve had rain delays and come back and had to play the next day,” Oliverio said, who went on to say that has never happened to her team in the regional final.
Ryle has won five straight postseason meetings vs. Conner, and the Raiders have claimed seven regional titles in the past eight seasons.
Conner went to state in 2009, the last time the Cougars beat Ryle in the playoffs. The Raiders are 2-1 vs. Conner this season, having suffered a 4-2 loss on the Cougars’ home field on April 12.
CONNER 001-000—1 6 2
vs. RYLE 000-000—0 4 1
PITCHERS: Conner—Sims (26-11). Ryle—Crupper (16-6). HITTING LEADERS: C—Himes 2-3; Sims 2B. R—Hammes 2-2.
Top Sports Headlines
Conner sprayed 12 hits around the field while sophomore hurler Elizabeth Sims kept Boone County in check as the Cougars grabbed their first district title since 2009.