By Chris Parsons / Staff Writer
Every once in a while in high school sports, there’s a team that stands out against the competition in one aspect of the game or another.
For the South Laurel Lady Cardinals, this season is that once in a while.
So far this season, James Burns’ squad has amassed a 19-5 record, with just two losses to in-state teams (1-0 to Scott County and 3-2 against Boyle County). While the talent of his squad is the main reason for this season’s success, Burns said the fact his team has fun and plays for each other is another reason.
“This group gets along really well and they play well together,” Burns said. “A lot of times you have kids that want to play for themselves, but this group of girls play for each other and you can tell when you’re around them.”
When it comes to offense, there’s been no shortage at South Laurel. The Lady Cardinals are scoring at a rate of 7.6 runs per game, while allowing just 2.4 on the defensive side of the ball.
As a team, the Lady Cardinals have a .363 average, with a combined 20 home runs on the season. While Brittany Vandeventer’s .500 average leads the way in that category, Amber Hyde has paced the squad in long balls and RBIs with 10 and 34, respectively.
If offensive numbers aren’t enough to impress, South Laurel’s pitchers have pulled their weight as well. Hagan Burns and Megan Smith have gotten all but one start this season, with Burns tallying a 9-4 mark and Smith’s standing at 10-1. Burns gets the nod when it comes to ERA and strikeouts with 0.89 and 69, while Smith comes in with an ERA of 2.82 and 48 strikeouts on the season.
Prior to last week’s extra-inning loss to Boyle County on the road, South Laurel had won 13 straight dating back to an April 9, with wins over Harrison County, Madison Central, Rowan County, Lincoln County and North Laurel highlighting the streak.
After the loss to the Lady Rebels, Burns said he expected his team to come out and play well the following night. He was right as it picked up a 10-2 win over McCreary Central.
“I knew after that loss the girls would respond, because they don’t like to lose,” Burns said. “I was interested to see how they were going to respond, but I didn’t really let them know. I had an idea of how they would play though.
“With this team we really let them play and have fun, because that’s really what it’s all about – having fun,” he added. “Of course, the second part of that speech is that it’s a lot more fun when you’re winning, so that’s how we look at it.”
As the regular season begins to wind down, Burns isn’t about to let the team sit back and collect wins just to build an impressive record. He said playing the best competition possible is the only way to improve and be ready for postseason play.
“I really loaded the schedule up because I wanted our kids to be playing their best at the end of the season,” Burns said. “You want your kids to go into postseason play at the top of their game and by playing a tough schedule, I feel like we have a better chance of doing that.”