District diamond tournaments begin Monday
By Jim Turner

Posted on January 1, 0001 12:00 AM

When the 13th District diamond tournaments have their big day Monday, the pairings will be the same in both the baseball and softball divisions. Russellville and Franklin-Simpson will play each other in the first games, and Logan County and Todd Central will be the opponents in the nightcaps.
Both tournaments, unfortunately, are being played at the same time 22 miles apart. It's also a break in tradition that both first-round games are being played the same day in baseball.

Although the opposing schools are the same, the expectations in the tournaments are vastly different. In baseball, Russellville is the top seed and Franklin number four. In softball, however, it's the Lady Cats who are the favorites and the Lady Panthers who are at the bottom of the standings.

The seeds are also opposite in softball. Logan is seeded second and Todd third in baseball, but the Lady Rebels are favored over the Lady Cougars.

The baseball tournament is at LCHS and begins at 5 p.m. with the Panther-Wildcat clash. The Cougars and Rebels are expected to throw out their first pitch about 7:30. The Lady Panthers take on the host Lady Wildcats at 5:30 in Simpson County. The Logan-Todd game will follow. Both finals are scheduled for Tuesday with baseball to begin at 6 p.m. and softball at 7.

Murphy leads Panthers to top seed
The Panthers achieved a rare top seed in the district baseball seedings by going 5-1 against district opponents. A win in the Class A state quarterfinals added to an outstanding season that finds them 17-7 going into the tournament, following a 13-2 start. They had won 11 of 12 games at one juncture.

Their most impressive wins were in Class A play. They won the substate game over an Owensboro Catholic team which finished 15-12. In the quarterfinals they squeezed out a 1-0, 9-inning win over a Middlesboro team which is 19-12. Beating Franklin twice is always impressive, even in a down year for the Cats.

It's difficult to tell how the Panthers will fare against the regional's best teams because they rarely play them. RHS faced only three of the other seven teams with the best records in the region and went 0-3 against Allen County-Scottsville, Bowling Green and Greenwood.

The Cougars have undergone what has to be a frustrating season. They started 0-6 and finished 2-8 in their last 10 games, but in between Coach Ethan Meguiar's team went 11-4. Along the way they beat some good teams, including Greenwood (22-11 record), Warren Central (25-9) and Russellville. They also lost close games to teams with winning records, including one-run losses to Allen County-Scottsville (19-6), Muhlenberg County (18-14), Warren East (17-15) and Bourbon County (20-11). The Cougars have played 13 games against the teams with the eight best records in the region.

The Cougars' 6-5 win over Russellville proved to be the deciding factor in their second seed. Neither Franklin nor Todd could pick up a win against the Panthers. That was also a remarkable turnaround from their first game with the Panthers in which RHS dominated in every way, winning 12-2 in five innings.

On the other hand, Logan's 6-2 loss to F-S on May 4 was decidedly different from their own 12-2 drubbing of the Wildcats three weeks earlier, also in five innings.

Todd Central has a 13-18 record but has outscored its opponents 172-126. Besides its wins over LCHS and F-S, the Rebels' most impressive performances came in the Jackson Purchase ACA Wood Bat Classic. They lost 4-3 to a Lone Oak team that is now 25-8, beat Paducah Tilghman (13-15) by a 2-0 score and lost 4-1 to host Graves County, which is 21-12. The principal at Graves County is R.B. Mays, who coached the Rebels to their only district championship back in 2004, which also was the last year the Panthers won a postseason game.

Franklin-Simpson is the wild card in this tournament. The Wildcats, who have made the finals every year since that 2004 season when standout infielder Adam Burrell was killed in a car wreck during district tournament week, started very slowly and had to win their last three games to finish 14-14. But they now must beat Russellville Monday to avoid an almost unheard of losing season.

Some low points have been evident for Coach Craig Delk's team, including being a virtual no-show in that 12-2 five-inning loss to the Cougars. They lost 19-1 in their Wildcat Classic to a team coached by former F-S state champion coach Greg Shelton. In fact, Shelton's team handed the Cats that whalloping on Greg Shelton Field.

On the other hand, Franklin plays a much tougher schedule than most teams. They've gone against opponents from five states. Additionally, they hold wins over Allen County-Scottsville and Bowling Green and two of the losses have been by one and two runs to Daviess County (15-13). They've played nine games against the region's top eight teams.

The wild card for the Panthers to avoid an upset by the Wildcats is senior pitcher Darren Murphy, who will go down as one of the best and winningest pitchers in RHS baseball history. When he is on the mound, Coach Lou Kendall's team has a chance of beating anyone. Chances are pretty good that he will be on that mound when the first pitch is thrown Monday.

Cauley's team the softball favorite
Lewisburg native Steve Cauley has rebuilt Franklin-Simpson softball after some sad seasons for the program. His Lady Cats would be at .500 going into the tournament had they not lost 8-7 at Todd Central on May 12. That gave the two teams 5-1 district records and required a tiebreaker. That went to F-S.

Logan County has not enjoyed the kind of season it has the last two years. In 2008, the Lady Cougars reached the regional semifinals. Last year they won their first-ever district championship. But Coach Toby Turpin lost a strong senior class, led by one of the program's best players ever, catcher Erica Meguiar. Additionally, Aeron Smith, who was named all-district last year as a seventh grader, transferred to Greenwood, where she was named second team all-region as an eighth graderx this year. Also transferring was backup pitcher Katylin Harris, who now is a member of the Russellville team.

Logan has won only three games, and two of them were against Russellville. The other win was against Clinton County, which is 17-17. Jordan Melton is a capable pitcher for the Lady Cougars and Sheena Bilicki has shown power the past two seasons.

Russellville has suffered through a discouraging season that has rarely seen the team competitive in games. Their lone win came against Caverna by an 8-2 score. The Lady Panthers scored only 46 runs in 20 games. Coach Veronica Johnson canceled the final three games of the regular season. The first time the Lady Panthers played Franklin-Simpson, the loss was only by 7-1, but the second time it was 25-0 in three innings.

One of the saddest things about this is the Lady Panthers have a veteran pitcher who has given everything she has on the mound for RHS for several years. Tori Carnall will have to be at her best Monday for the Lady Panthers to pull off a huge upset, but even that won't be enough unless the defense behind her makes good plays and better decisions.

Franklin-Simpson managed a huge win when Cauley's team knocked off powerful Greenwood 2-1 on April 29. A win like that was a good reminder for the former Ranger star as to why he got into coaching. Three of the Lady Cats' wins have been over Muhlenberg County, which always plays good softball. Three of the losses have been to Barren County, which has a 26-6 record.

Todd Central is the only team in the district with a winning record at 11-9. The Lady Rebels are 6-1 in the district and 7-2 in the region. That extra district game comes from having beaten RHS 14-6 in the first round of the All A regional. Coach Calvin Head, who has recently been named his alma mater's head boys basketball coach, took his team to the regional Class A finals by beating Clinton County, before the Lady Rebels fell to Glasgow in the championship game. That loss ended a five-game winning streak, but Todd won 11 of its final 15 games.

In head-to-head games with Logan, the Lady Rebels won 6-0 and 5-4. Logan gets a chance for revenge Monday.

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