By Les Dixon / Sports Editor
NORTH LAUREL — When it comes to winning in fastpitch softball, no one has done it more than the North Laurel Lady Jaguars.
The state’s all-time leader in wins also became the state’s first team to reach the 600-win plateau after North Laurel blitzed Middlesboro in six innings, 10-0.
The Lady Jaguars (15-9) used the same formula that got them to 599 wins Thursday by getting solid hitting and pitching by belting out 13 hits while receiving a three-hit, nine strikeout performance by senior pitcher Megan Baldwin.
“It’s a great thing these girls have accomplished,” North Laurel coach Becky Osborne said. “This is a combination of every team from North Laurel that succeeded and for the girls tonight, the six seniors, this is something special they’ll be able to remember the rest of their lives.
“It says a lot of how much North Laurel softball, all the way down to middle school to little league, the dedication they have to have, to play at a program at North Laurel,” she added. “It’s great that we continue the tradition of winning yearly.”
Osborne herself has played a big part in North Laurel’s success on the coaching side of things and being a former player that wore the Kelly green and blue.
She led North Laurel to its only state championship in 2001 along with a 2000 state runner-up appearance as well. She ranks third all-time in career wins with 125 and was also named Miss Softball in 2002.
But she was quick to point out that a lot of North Laurel’s success has come because of how hard present and former Lady Jaguar players have worked to keep the tradition going.
“I think every program has their ups and downs and some years are better than other ones, but I’ve always said you can have all the talent in the world, but if you don’t have the heart for it … the heart is what carries you through.”
North Laurel showed just that against the Lady Yellow Jackets by scoring a run in the first inning while adding two more in the second to take a 3-0 edge.
Kailin Yantz got things going with a run-scoring double in the first inning while Baldwin added one of her own in the second inning. Mikayla Vires drove in the Lady Jaguars’ third run with a ground out.
Both Farris Strong and Emily Sears scored in the bottom of the fourth inning thanks to two errors while Vanessa Smith scored on an error in the bottom of the fifth, increasing North Laurel’s lead to 6-0.
The Lady Jaguars put the game away with four runs in the bottom of the sixth inning, as Yantz’s two-run single highlighted the inning.
Yantz finished the game with three hits and three RBI.