Saturday, May 29, 2010

Regional softball pairings ...

These are the pairings for the First Region softball tournament, which will be held at Ballard Memorial High School:

Ballard Memorial (26-5) vs. Marshall County (25-12), noon
Reidland (30-6) vs. Carlisle County (10-17), 2 p.m.
Calloway County (16-14) vs. Graves County (15-20), 4 p.m.
Hickman County (15-8) vs. Heath (26-11), 6 p.m.

Semifinals, 5:30 p.m.

Championship, 6 p.m.

Notes: The Ballard Memorial-Marshall County matchup is Monday's marquee game. Marshall is ranked 12th in the latest state coaches' poll, with the host Bombers checking in at No. 18. Reidland, ranked eighth, gives the upper bracket three of the top 20 teams in the rankings.

Heath, ranked 14th, is the lower-bracket favorite, but the Pirates beat Hickman County just 2-1 earlier this month and haven't met potential semifinal opponent Calloway County.

Regional baseball pairings ...

These are the pairings for the First Region baseball tournament, which will be held at Brooks Stadium:

Murray (22-14) vs. Hickman County (10-21), 10 a.m.
Heath (13-17) vs. Mayfield (8-13), 12:30 p.m.
Graves County (23-12) vs. Lone Oak (26-9), 3 p.m.
Carlisle County (15-16) vs. Marshall County (18-16), 5:30 p.m.

Semifinals, 5 p.m.

Championship, 6 p.m.

Notes: After three years of getting arguably the region's worst draw, Murray ends up in a bracket with three teams with sub-.500 records. The Tigers have had tough first-round games the last three years, each time losing one-run decisions — in 10 innings to Graves County in 2007, to eventual regional champion Heath in 2008 and Lone Oak last spring.

The Lone Oak-Graves matchup is the best of the first day. Don't be surprised if both teams are forced to start their respective aces — Lone Oak left-hander Lucas Englert, a freshman, and Graves lefty Andrew Shultz, who beat the Purple Flash 7-2 a couple of weeks ago. The Flash pitched Eric Winn in that contest, but expect Winn to be behind the plate on Monday.

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Girls' basketball doings ...

Expect Ballard Memorial to name a new head coach sometime this week. The Lady Bombers' job figured to be an attractive one, with six of the top nine players returning, including two-time All-Purchase pick Abby Shelley, veteran Tiffani Hatley and a talented young backcourt of Brandi Jones and sisters Anna and Abby Denton.

Athletic director Kevin Estes has been fairly mum about the search to name his replacement, but there have been indications that one of Ballard's top choices is a retired coach that won more than 400 games in a 20-plus-year career in Tennessee.

Marshall County, of course, is open, as are Hickman County, Caldwell County and Livingston Central.

• Murray doesn't seem likely to repeat its 30-win dream season, thanks to a beefed-up schedule coach Rechelle Turner hopes will push her team to another sweep of First Region titles.

In December alone, Murray will play in Lexington Catholic's tournament, considered the state's best meet, and appear in a shootout at Martin Westview that matches up Kentucky and Tennessee squads. The Lady Tigers' opponent is Ensworth, a Nashville program that was 25-4 last season and won Tennessee's Class 2A private-school state championship.

Calloway County will also play in the event, taking on host Martin Westview, a perennial power that was 27-9 and reached the Class 2A semifinals.

Both squads also host tournaments around the Christmas holidays, and both will feature fine fields next season. Murray's Lady Tiger Classic consists of Murray and Ballard Memorial, as well as Fulton County and Tennessee entries Henry County (the defending champion) and Union City. The non-local contingent includes Clarksville Northeast, Grayson County and Clinton County.

Five of the participating teams — Murray, Ballard Memorial, Henry County, Clarksville Northeast and Grayson County — won at least 20 games last season.

Calloway will travel to Orlando over the Christmas break next year, and coach Scott Sivills' tournament is still looking to fill a couple of slots to go with the Lady Lakers, Henderson County, Graves County, Massac County and a pair of Tennessee squads, Covington and Clarksville Northwest.

Ballard's Lady Bomber Shootout will cut back from 16 teams to eight, but still maintains a solid field. The local entries are the Lady Bombers, Marshall County, Heath, Community Christian and Crittenden County. Lake County returns to the tournament after going 29-4 last season, and Dyersburg is traditionally strong in Tennessee. The eighth team is an unusual selection — Providence-St. Mel, a small Catholic school in Chicago.

Monday, May 3, 2010

Turner: I'm staying at Murray ...

Murray coach Rechelle Turner has quashed speculation that she would be a candidate for the Marshall County coaching position by announcing that she is staying with the Lady Tigers.

Turner, a former all-stater with the Lady Marshals, took to the airwaves on Monday to affirm her commitment to Murray, going on husband Travis Turner's radio show.

She was a natural candidate for the job, given her ties to Marshall and success at Murray, where she has won two First Region titles and established her program as the area's top small-school program with seven All A Classic regional titles.

In 14 seasons, Turner has a record of 262-137, and with the core of her team returning with Haley Armstrong, Shelby Crouch and Janssen Starks, it's admittedly tough to leave.

Turner cited her affinity for Murray's administration, staff and players in her decision. She's long maintained that Murray has treated her well throughout her tenure, dating back to when she was hired as a head coach at age 23.

Saturday, May 1, 2010

Tracking the baseball districts ...

The Third District race became a bit clearer last week, although not all of the seedings are settled just yet, and next week's showdown between fierce rivals Murray and Calloway County will settle the Fourth District pairings.

Let's take a look at the races that will make the biggest impact on the road to the regional tournament:

Lone Oak has the inside track on the top seed in the Second District, but needs to beat Heath on May 11 to nail it down. Paducah Tilghman is likely to finish fourth and face the Purple Flash in the semifinals, but can possibly avoid that fate by sweeping Reidland and Heath in its final two district games.

Graves County's sweep of Ballard Memorial and Mayfield's sweep of St. Mary means it's likely that the Eagles will take on St. Mary in the Third District's postseason opener. Graves has locked down the top seed, and the Vikings will have to sweep Ballard Memorial this week to work their way out of the cellar.

Even if that is the first-round contest, the potential pitching match up — St. Mary's Chris Hunt (assuming he's back from injury) against either Ryan Hayden or Andrew Shultz — makes it much more interesting than the usual 1-4 fare.

Murray needs to take one of two in its series with Calloway to lock down the top seed in the Fourth District, which would put the Lakers against a Marshall County team with which it split a pair this week. If Calloway gets the sweep, Murray would meet Marshall for a spot in the regional tournament.

• Under the new postseason format, the First Region champion goes directly into a 16-team state tournament at Applebee's Park in Lexington instead of competing in a best-of-three series against another regional winner.

Unfortunately, the First Region didn't get a palatable draw — the 11th Region champion awaits. Seven of the top 25 teams in the state coaches' poll will compete for that regional crown, including No. 1 Lexington Catholic and No. 2 Lexington Christian. Lexington Tates Creek is ranked fifth, followed by Frankfort-area schools Franklin County (13th) and Western Hills (15th), Lexington Lafayette (16th) and Lexington Dunbar (25th).

And you think your district is tough? The 43rd District has five ranked teams — Lexington Catholic, Lexington Christian, Tates Creek, Lafayette and Dunbar.

McClure to Southern Indiana ...

Former Paducah Tilghman basketball star Isaac McClure has signed with Division II power Southern Indiana after completing two seasons at Southeastern Illinois College.

McClure, a 6-6 sophomore, averaged 13 points and six rebounds as the starting power forward for SIC, which finished at 25-11 after going 2-2 at the national junior college tournament in Hutchinson, Kan. He had drawn some interest from some Division I schools — Austin Peay, Loyola-Chicago, Youngstown State and Charleston Southern — but opted to go with USI, which is located in Evansville and coached by former Southern Illinois assistant Rodney Watson.

USI was 24-3 last season and was ranked ninth in the Division II national poll, finishing second to fifth-ranked Kentucky Wesleyan in the Great Lakes Valley Conference. The Screaming Eagles were ineligible for postseason play, spending the season on probation because of NCAA rules violations committed the previous year.