by Bryan Edwards
New Era sports writer
Hopkins County Central got it started early and put the University Heights Academy Lady Blazers away Monday, defeating them 16-1 in four innings.
The Lady Storm opened the game with three runs after loading the bases with the first three batters of the game. After the three runs got through, pitcher Mallory Ladd and the UHA defense forced three straight outs to get out of the jam.
In the second, Hopkins Central piled on six more runs to go up 9-0 after the top half. During the bottom half, Riley Johnson reached base on an error, and later scored thanks to a throwing error from the HCC catcher after a Katie Beth Stevens walk to slightly cut into the lead. However, the one run was all UHA could get in the inning and in the game, as the Lady Storm scored seven runs in the final two innings to take home the win.
The Lady Blazers didn't record a hit in the loss.
With the district tournament looming, UHA head coach Jordan Grace said he wants his kids to keep their heads up because what happened in the regular season no longer matters when the postseason rolls around.
"Stay positive (and) quit getting down on themselves," he said. "I did tell them, 'We've got one more home game on Thursday against Dawson, and then on Monday, regular season records don't matter.' Our plan is to go into that game, give it our all and see where the outcome is."
With a team that only boasts one senior and one junior on the entire roster, it has been on Grace, who is in his first year at the helm of UHA softball, to teach and develop his young roster for the future.
He said a lot goes into coaching a young team and developing a group that mainly consists of underclassmen and middle schoolers takes some extra time.
"A lot of my kids haven't played since little league," Grace said. " A lot of the year you see yourself doing the basic fundamentals instead of working on situations. At times when a ball gets hit to our kids, we may not have had the chance to work that far yet and they don't know what to do. If there's runners on first and third and it gets hit to them, they freeze up. Our main thing right now -- and it's what I just told them in the huddle -- it's softball, you can be the greatest athlete, but if you can't catch at first, you can't do nothing with it."
As a first-year coach, he said patience is a thing that he has learned from taking over as the head coach.
"I hate to lose, but I've learned you've got to be patient with the girls," he said. "Every single one of them I will say has improved. I had kids at the first of the year that couldn't throw it from the dugout to first base, now they can throw it from the outfield to second base. Some of them couldn't catch it. Just be patient and keep working with them. The saying always is, 'If you stop getting onto a kid, they should be worried.' I haven't stopped getting onto any of them."
Grace and the Lady Blazers (3-12) have one game before the 8th District tournament, which will be at 5:30 p.m. on Thursday against Dawson Springs.