STATE’S BIGGEST PRIZE UP FOR GRABS : North Laurel ready to battle Henderson County in KHSAA State Championship Game 

LEXINGTON — One win away.

Henderson County is the only thing standing between the North Laurel High School Fastpitch Program and their second state championship, the first one since 2000 when the Lady Jaguars defeated Owensboro Catholic.

Tonight’s game also signifies the first time North Laurel has played in a state title game since 2008, although things were quite different 16 years ago.

Back then, the Lady Jaguars had to win two straight games against Greenwood to clinch the state crown in the double elimination tournament. This time around, it’s a single elimination format — win or go home.

North Laurel has experience playing in fastpitch’s biggest spotlight. 

Today’s matchup against the No. 2 ranked Lady Colonels will be the Lady Jaguars’ fourth appearance in a state championship game.

With a state-best 19 region titles and 860 wins, North Laurel has a track record of success. However, they will face a tough challenge in Henderson County (35-5), who is fresh off a 2-0 victory over top-ranked South Warren.

To get the win, the Lady Jaguars must bring their ‘A’ game once more.

“First of all, it’s an honor and a privilege to play in the state championship game,” North Laurel coach Chris Edwards said. “There are a lot of high quality players throughout our state that never make it to a state tourney or get close to a championship game. Enjoy this moment and take it all in. 

“To have this team playing in the state championship game is amazing,” he added. “We knew we had a really good team. Not a lot of people outside of our circle believed in us but we did. Of course, that’s most important. We’ve also been able to get a good plan in place and execute that plan. It also doesn’t hurt to be playing our best softball of the year right now. The girls deserve all the credit and praise for making this run. People do not see all of the hard work at practice, extra work they down their own. It’s really a grind but it is awesome to see the work pay off.”

The Lady Colonels enter today’s game with five losses — Caldwell County (6-5), Greenwood (1-0), South Warren (9-2), Livingston Central (3-1), and Great Cross (3-1). They also posses a .69198 RPI rating.

Henderson County has a team batting average of .414, and a team ERA of 1.99. The Lady Colonels are easily the best team North Laurel will have faced this season.

“Henderson is a really good team,” Edwards said. “They’ve been ranked very high in the polls most of the season. They also have some really nice players that we will have to deal with, including their pitcher Anna Kemp, she’s going to Missouri and Taylor Troutman, who is going to Mississippi State. They are a very good team and will certainly be a huge challenge.”

Henderson County has two players that are hitting over .500, four players over .400, and six over .300.

Mississippi State signee Taylor Troutman is batting .525 with 63 hits, 12 home runs, and 45 RBI while Hallie McCracken is batting .511 with 69 hits, 17 home runs, and 60 RBI.

As a team, the Lady Colonels have hit 60 home runs, and has stolen 128 bases — with more than half of those coming from two players — Saniya Shields (39), and Ayden Bennett (38).

Missouri signee Anna Kemp leads the way in the pitcher’s circle with a 22-1 record and a 1.43 ERA. She has struck out 178 batters in 142.1 innings. 

North Laurel (30-9) will counter with one of the youngest rosters that have played in the state title game — led by eighth grader Emma Carl, who has been more than impressive on the state’s biggest stage.

She has posted a 3-0 mark in the pitcher’s circle while garnering a 1.33 ERA. She has 15 strikeouts in 21 innings pitched while receiving a solid performance from her teammates, defensively.

Carl also leads the team with a .400 batting average during state tournament play. She’s batting .400 (4-for-10) with two doubles and three RBI. 

Saige McClure is batting .364 with a team-best ..727 slugging percentage. She’s collected four hits, and driven in two runs. Ellie Adams, Braylee Fawbush and Katie Keen are batting .333 apiece while Katie Sams, who has a home run and three RBI is batting .300. Bella Sizemore is batting .273 while Morgan Edwards and Bella Finley are betting .222 apiece.

Edwards has been dominant defensively with a team-best 22 put outs along with a 1.000 fielding percentage. Sizemore, Carl, Adams, Finley and Sams also have a perfect 1.000 fielding percentage.