Competing in the 2021 version of the Catholic Classic round-robin high school softball event at refurbished Jack C. Fisher Park this past weekend proved fortuitous for both Apollo and host Owensboro Catholic.
So much so, that both programs have a chance to be significantly enhanced by the time postseason play begins.
The youth-laden, rebuilding E-Gals had shown flashes of potential during the early season, but nonetheless brought only a 2-10 record into Friday’s opening round of play.
But Apollo decided to put its best foot forward in its most opportune moment to day, beginning play with a truly stunning 6-2 conquest of No. 22 Green County on Friday night — setting the tone for a highly productive weekend.
Green County, out of the 5th Region, rolled into Owensboro having won 15 of 19 games, but by the end of the evening Apollo appeared to be the more seasoned team — clicking at the plate, in the field, and in the circle like never before this season.
Apollo got all the key hits, made all the key plays, and got all the key pitches from ever-emerging sophomore right-hander Emmie Bullington, who had Dragons batters tied up in knots all night long with an assortment of well-placed pitches.
So, satisfied with a big upset, Apollo returned to sub-.500 form and got swept in its two games on Saturday, right? Not hardly.
Instead, Apollo pulled off an even big shocker by defeating No. 5 Central Hardin, 11-6.
Bullington had another huge game — in the circle and at the plate — with the E-Gals got five RBIs from K’Asia Palmer and three more from Abbie Gore.
Again, Apollo played like the more veteran team, erupting for seven fifth-inning runs against the Lady Bruins to put the contest away.
The E-Gals wrapped up play in the event with a 10-0 loss to No. 24 Greenwood, but Apollo had already proved its point — the E-Gals will be a difficult out in postseason tournament play.
Owensboro Catholic, meanwhile, made strides in the right direction as well.
The Lady Aces opened play with two games on Friday night, looking sharp in a 6-2 victory over Villa Grove (Ill.), before being stymied by No. 11 Warren East 3-0 — and getting only two hits in the process.
And, for the longest time on Saturday afternoon it looked as if Catholic’s bats might never come to life — but they did, and when they did, it meant the difference between victory and defeat; the difference between a winning weekend and a losing weekend.
The Lady Aces trailed Green County 2-0 entering the final inning, but struck for three runs to prevail in walk-off fashion.
Catholic pulled within a run by Brooke Hamilton scored on an outfield error, and Gracie Jennings drove in the tying and winning runs with a single up the middle.
So, in a 10-team event featuring ranked teams galore, Apollo and Cathloic — both unranked — combined to win four of six games. That’s impressive.
It’s also a shot in the arm for both 9th District and 3rd Region softball, and perhaps a portend of things to come when championships are contested later this spring.