‘Let’s roll with it.’ Henderson County shrugs off 3 a.m. fire alarm to claim softball title

A 3 a.m. fire alarm disturbed what was already a fitful night’s sleep for Henderson County’s team a short 16 hours before the first pitch of Saturday’s KHSAA State Softball Tournament Championship at John Cropp Stadium.

The Colonels responded by setting the base paths ablaze in an 11-0 win against North Laurel for the program’s first state title.

Henderson jumped on North Laurel from the first at-bat as Alyse Rollings led off with a double and Taylor Troutman followed with an RBI triple down the first-base line. Hallie McCracken then stepped up for an RBI single to score Troutman and stake the Colonels to a 2-0 lead after one half inning.

“It was crazy. Right when Alyse got the hit, I knew we were winning,” said Troutman, a senior Mississippi State commit and head coach’s daughter who scored three of the Colonels’ runs and ended the game with a line-drive catch and unassisted double play at first base. “I didn’t say anything because I didn’t want to jinx it, but I just knew it right then, right from that first hit.”

Henderson County players celebrate after winning the state softball championship at John Cropp Stadium on Saturday.
Henderson County players celebrate after winning the state softball championship at John Cropp Stadium on Saturday.

Henderson County (36-5) would score three more runs in the second inning, one in the third, four in the fourth and one in the fifth to establish a mercy-rule margin that ultimately ended the game in five innings instead of seven. Every batter in the Colonels’ order had at least one hit. Ayden Bennett scored twice and had an RBI; Saniya Shields had two hits, an RBI and a run scored; and Maggie Grogan knocked one in.

“This is just an opportunity not a lot of people get. It’s the last game of the year, you know. We just want to leave it all out here on the field,” said junior pitcher Anna Kemp, a Missouri commit who was named the tournament’s most valuable player after leading the Colonels with two hits and four RBIs at the plate and a three-hit shutout that included six strikeouts in the circle.

McCracken, a senior Oakland City commit who had two hits and one of the first-inning RBis, acknowledged her teammates were pretty grumpy after getting woken up by the fire alarm that morning.

“The biggest day of our life and a fire alarm goes off at 3 a.m. ‘Oh, well, let’s roll with it’,” McCracken said. “I would say we weren’t really all too asleep yet, because, I mean, ‘championship game.’ We were all amped up and can’t really sleep anyway.”

Henderson County had just knocked off No. 1 South Warren in the semifinals a few hours earlier. Coach Shannon Troutman knew his team needed rest and could not overlook a red-hot North Laurel team, which beat Assumption 8-0 in the other semifinal.

“I was like, ‘Get in bed! It’s just a false alarm.’ And they said, ‘The fire trucks are here!’” Coach Troutman recounted. “A lot of teams would have taken that a different way, but we kept challenging them. … We didn’t get much sleep, but we still went to the ball field and practiced on the state championship day.”

North Laurel (30-10) made an incredible run to the finals, avenging a regular-season loss to Letcher County Central in the opening round and then rallying for five runs in the seventh inning to stun Boyd County in the quarterfinals. The Jaguars will graduate just one senior off this year’s team. Pitchers Emma Carl and Tessa Monhollen are an eighth grader and a freshman, respectively.

“I’m proud of them. We weren’t necessarily supposed to be in this spot, and we played some great softball, especially down the stretch,” North Laurel coach Chris Edwards said. “Just one game doesn’t define who we are as a team. That’s a really good team across the way over there … We just ran into a buzz saw today.”

Henderson County finished runner-up to Ballard in a 12-4 finals loss last year with many of these same players. The Colonels were making their fourth straight trip to state. Each year, they’ve progressed further.

“We didn’t play good in the state championship last year,” Coach Troutman said. “We wanted to get back on this stage because we wanted to prove that’s not Henderson County softball — that we were a lot better than that. … We got here and we did what we wanted to do.”

Henderson County’s Anna Kemp pitches against North Laurel in the state finals Saturday at John Cropp Stadium.
Henderson County’s Anna Kemp pitches against North Laurel in the state finals Saturday at John Cropp Stadium.

All-Tournament Team

Annie Newman, Daviess County; Jaycie Goad, Boyd County; Ava Emmert, Lexington Catholic; Addley Leidecker, McCracken County; Paige Crain and Rylee Sandifer, Assumption; Hadley Borders and Layla Ogden, South Warren; Emma Carl, Saige McClure and Bella Sizemore, North Laurel; Taylor Troutman, Hallie McCracken and Anna Kemp (MVP), Henderson County.

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