PRESTONSBURG — Pikeville held a 2-0 lead with the bases loaded and nobody out in the top of the third.
Ginna Jones ripped a shot down the left field line. The ball cleared the fence, but was just a few feet foul. Jones ended up taking a walk on the play instead of blasting a grand slam home run for Pikeville.
That consolation didn’t last as Jones redeemed herself in the top of the fifth as she crushed a two-run home run to give the Lady Panthers a 6-0 lead over Paintsville.
That was plenty enough for Emily Ford on the mound. Ford dazzled as she struck out 14 and Pikeville picked up a 6-1 win over the Lady Tigers in the 15th Region All “A” Classic championship.
The 15th Region All “A” championship could be renamed the Lady Panther trophy because now, Pikeville was won seven straight 15th Region All “A” Classic titles.
“I’m incredibly proud of them,” Pikeville coach Brandi Jo Howard said. “A lot of freshman and sophomores are stepping up and playing varsity for the first time. I’m just proud of how they’re playing together as a team. Going to Pigeon Forge during Spring Break last week was great for us because we faced some really good competition down there. We had some wins and losses, but we learned from both and it prepared us for this week and helped us get this win today.”
The game was scoreless heading into the top of the third inning.
Pikeville’s Molly Coleman reached on a walk to put a runner on with no outs to start off the top of the third inning. Caroline Brown reached on an error as Coleman scored the game’s first run. Kelcie Adams followed with a single and Cassidy Slater walked to load the bases. Ford reached on an error that allowed the second run to score and push the lead to 2-0.
With the bases loaded and no outs, Jones ripped a shot down the left field fence. It cleared the wall easily, but it was a few feet foul nullifying a grand slam homer. She ended up walking and driving home another run.
Pikeville led 3-0 after the third inning of play.
The Lady Panthers got its offense going once again in the top of the fifth. Adams singled to get things started. Slater reached on an error to let Adams to score and push the lead to 4-0.
That set up Jones’ two-run homer. Jones smashed another shot down the left field line only this time, it was a no-doubt home run as Pikeville jumped out in front 6-0.
“She (Ginna Jones) is a gritty player and she won’t quit,” Howard said. “Every at bat, you can just see the focus and drive in her. She has a lot of heart and even as a freshman, she plays a huge role on our team and as our catcher, with her and Emily (Ford), the battery are great together. I’m incredibly proud of her and Emily both on their home runs, but they just got the job done.”
Paintsville got on the scoreboard in the bottom of the sixth inning as pitcher Laney Bledsoe ripped a home run to center to end the shutout.
Ford got the win on the mound for the Lady Panthers as she gave up on run on one hit with 13 strikeouts and a walk.
“Emily (Ford) is just different from most the of the players that you see from around here,” Howard said. “The hard work that she has put in and her discipline make her special. Before practice, she’s out there throwing pitches and it shows. Tonight she had 13 strikeouts. She’s broken our school record that was her own previous school record; it was 15 strikeouts and she broke that and she got 16 strikeouts in the first game we played this season. She’s incredible. She’s a dominating pitcher and it’s because of her hard work. We’re just proud of her and I’m proud of the defense for making plays behind her. We played together as a team and that’s what we have to do to beat good teams.”
Bledsoe had a good showing even though she suffered the loss on the mound. Bledsoe gave up six runs (two earned) on five hits with 10 strikeouts and four walks.
After missing a complete season last year, the Lady Panthers are heading back the All “A” Classic. COVID-19 shut down baseball and softball season last spring.
Just getting back on the field has been a bonus for Howard and her team this season.
“I’m incredibly thankful,” Howard said. “I just love being out here with them. You can just tell that they’re grateful every time that they come out on the field and just be able to play the game they love. We are just so thankful.”
The All “A” Classic will split into Pool Play this season to ensure each team has at least two games. The top two teams from each Pool will advance to the final eight. The tournament will be double-elimination. Once you reach your second loss, you will be eliminated from the tournament.
Pikeville will compete in Pool D this season. The Lady Panthers will take on Region 16 champion in their first game at 10:30 a.m. Saturday morning, April 24. Pikeville will then take on Region 5 champion at 7:30 p.m. Saturday night.
The All “A” Classic will take place at Owensboro April 24 and 25.
“We expect to compete,” Howard said. “We know that, every game I tell them, we don’t play the jersey and we have to bring our best every single game. We are going to prepare with some competitive games next week. We have Lawrence County and then, we have our Lyndel Potter Tournament. The week after that is when we’ll go down and compete in the All “A” Classic state tournament. We’ll continue to face good competition to prepare ourselves and fix anything we need to fix before we go down there.”