LEXINGTON – The final chapter of a wonderful story was written on Saturday afternoon, as undefeated and nationally ranked Louisville Male closed the book on the Clay County Tigers historic, and wildly successful run with a 2-1 victory in extra innings in the KHSAA State Semifinals. Many naysayers didn’t believe the Tigers had a chance against the superior Louisville Male team, but in all reality the Tigers had everychance of defeating them. 

Coach Jamie Gilbert never had a doubt about his Tigers. “I told some reporters after the Madisonville-North Hopkins game that we welcomed the challenge to face Male, regardless of what anyone thought,” he said. “We are from Clay County, Kentucky, and I can guarantee you that we will not go down without a fight.” Louisville Male had not had a run scored against them since May 18th, nor had they went extra innings. 

The Tigers scored their first run in the first inning, smacking Male directly in the mouth, showing that Clay County meant business. Lead-off batter Emma Hurd would single on a ground ball to the pitcher to get things going for Clay. Shelby Phillips would lay down a beautiful sacrifice bunt to advance Hurd, followed by the lone RBI single from Brianda Owens to score Hurd from 2ndbase.

Owens, who many view as the top pitcher in the state of Kentucky, threw an incredible game in her final performance. She pitched her way to a complete game, two hit/nine strikeout game against the eventual state champion. The rumblings from within the bleachers on the Male side told the tale. They had said that Owens was by far their toughest test in over a year. 

Despite her best effort, Male would finally get over the hump and score against the Tigers, pushing across a run in the 4thinning. A Male courtesy runner would steal third base as Tiger catcher’ Tori North would attempt to throw her out. The throw hit the batter in the box, leading many to think an interference call was necessary. The very next pitch, the Lady Bulldogs would pour salt on the open wound, stealing home for their first run, sending the Male crowd into a frenzy.

The Tigers would hold Male scoreless until extra innings, when the Lady Bulldogs would finally push Clay County over the limit, forcing errors and crucial mistakes. An errant throw to first from Owens, a push bunt that advanced the runner, then a wild pitch. The final run scored, ending the Tigers season in a heartbreaker. 

Coach Gilbert and everyone in attendance hated to see the seniors fantastic run end. “When I spoke to the seniors after the game I reminded them that a very small part of their life was over, but the most important part of it was just beginning,” said Gilbert. “I also let them know that our time together had been a very special part of my life, and how much they meant to me.” 

Looking ahead, the Tigers will have to replace basically everything, as the seniors contributed heavily to the statistics portion of the team. However, several underclassmen gained invaluable experience, and also played a major role in this past years’ team’s success. “Players in any sport have to understand their role in the big picture of their teams’ success,” said Gilbert. “Next year’s team will have to establish their own identity, and the cycle always continues. Trust me, they know they have big shoes to fill, but I feel they will do their very best and I have the utmost faith in them!”

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