Seniors Lindsey Isfort, Kaylee Covey, Lindsey Wood and Sarah Wiseman
by Lindsey Wood
The Estill County High School softball team has had a slow start to their season due to the unrelenting rain of the past two weeks. In fact, the Lady Engineers have not played since they defeated Owsley County away 16-0 last Monday. Their only other competition was against Paul Lawrence Dunbar, which they lost 11-1.
Without any new games to cover, it may be helpful to remind fans of last season’s shocking outcome. After going 18-13 in the regular season and winning the district tournament by mercy rule against Powell County, the Lady Engineers were defeated by Leslie County in the first round of the regional tournament in one of the biggest upsets in the history of fourteenth region softball. Leslie went on to win the region, defeating Wolfe County as underdogs yet again.
This loss stung for the perennially successful Estill softball team, particularly for current senior catcher Sarah Wiseman. When asked about that bitter season-ender, she replied, “Last year, something was taken from us—and we want it back. That defeat has made me and the other seniors want the region title more than ever before, especially since the tournament is on our home field.” She expressed the utmost confidence in her squad, saying, “I think our team has a great chance of regaining the title. Our defense will be a brick wall; our pitching is the best in the region; and we will have a very productive line-up throughout the year. Add those three things with heart and we’ll get that title back. I promise you that.”
Head coach of the Lady Engineers, Shirley Beard, also has faith the team can get back to Owensboro. To win the region, she said the girls must “focus on their strengths.” While hitting has been a continual strength for the Engineers, Coach Beard says her team must “be patient and hit good pitches.” But as the conventional wisdom goes: offense sells tickets, but defense wins games. Coach Beard knows the fielders must “concentrate on making the defensive plays” as well if they want to win come tournament time.
Coach Beard knows a thing or two about post-season victory. In her over thirty-year career, she has brought a lot of regional hardware back to Estill County. Her team has won the fourteenth region five times in six years! But along with the success, there have been a few trials in her long tenure as coach, including last year’s surprise defeat. Through the ups and downs, Coach Beard insists these couple of factors are what keeps her coming back season after season: “The first is my love for the game of softball. I started out loving slow pitch, and then when we had to switch to fast pitch. Coach J.L Thomas taught me all about the differences between slow pitch and fast pitch. It is definitely my passion.” Coach Beard’s next reason for staying in the game was her affection for her players. She said, “I truly love all the girls. Estill County girls are the best in the state: loving, caring, and talented. It makes me so happy to watch them play softball.” Finally, Coach Beard gives credit to her family, saying, “And of course I have had a supportive family that has allowed me to spend a lot of time on the softball field.”
Another senior player for the Lady Engineers, right fielder Lindsey Isfort, has been around Coach Beard much longer than her four years as a team member. Both of her older sisters, Taylor and Kaylee Ray, are alumnae of the program. Given her background, Isfort is aware of the value of tradition to the overall productivity of the team. Drawing from her past experiences, she argues, “I think the most important tradition would be having such a hard work ethic as a team and having a winning mindset, especially since we have such a high expectation to live up to.” Other traditions Isfort sees as invaluable, particularly for the post-season, are “team cookouts and traditions Shirl has always done with her teams before districts and regions to help us bond together as a team that get us excited for tournament season!” This is Isfort’s premier year in the starting line-up, and she hopes to live up to her sisters’ legacy as well as the program’s.
Despite all that goes into winning a regional trophy, there is perhaps one single position that has the greatest impact on the game: the pitcher. Win or lose, this crucial player is likely to get the credit or the blame for the game’s outcome. Senior pitcher and Kaylee Covey understands this pressure all too well, but for many years she has lived up to the challenge and had tremendous success, which has led to a well-earned scholarship to Lindsey Wilson College. On handling the stress of being the Estill’s sole pitcher, Covey first thanked her team, saying, “Yes, being the only varsity pitcher is tough, but I have an amazing defense behind me. There’s not one pitch that someone is giving me encouragement or confidence. I’m very lucky to have such hardworking teammates on the field and in the dugout.” She also gave a shout-out to assistant coach Danny Wood and her catcher for helping her keep a level head. She said, “Danny always tells me to throw my pitches with confidence, and he helps me out with little talks after each inning. Sarah Wiseman also helps me when I don’t throw the best pitches; she frames them nicely and is always cheering me on.” A starter for three years, Covey is on track to have another outstanding year in the circle and her breakout year at the plate; she has already gotten a shut-out win and a home run under her belt this season.
Wiseman has caught Covey since middle school, and the two players have a special bond on the field, but Wiseman’s biggest effect on the game might be her bat. She has been one of the Lady Engineers’ most consistent hitters, batting in the three-spot this year. For her productivity in the batter’s box, she mostly credits her dad, Michael. She explained, “Dad and I decided to start putting in extra swings at least four nights a week. He’s really the reason why I’m so successful and such a consistent producer on the offensive side. We’ve spent countless hours at the cage and I’ve hit a million balls at 11 o’clock at night.” Wiseman’s bat made its way into the line-up her sophomore year, and it has stayed there. She has a knack for driving in runs and coming through when it counts, both of which are crucial skills for getting the win in regional tournament play.
The fourth and final senior for the Lady Engineers is Lindsey Wood. Wood has started as Estill’s lead-off batter and second baseman for two years but has been running the bases for the team since she was a freshman. Wood adds some speed to the line-up and makes big plays on the right side of the infield with the help of her first baseman, junior Taylor Duechle. She habitually leads the team in both steals and runs scored. As a lead-off batter, Wood’s goal this year is to make it on base at more than half her plate appearances because she knows the hitters behind her can drive her in. Like her dad, Wood believes games are won and lost by doing the “little things” like hustling every play and avoiding mental errors; a student of the game, Wood believes the greatest asset her team could have going into the regional tournament is proper preparation and an unselfish outlook.
In conclusion, the Lady Engineers’ seniors and head coach Shirley Beard are confident they can get back to Owensboro this year. But before they can go to Owensboro, they need to play some regular season games! Hopefully the sun will shine again and the Estill softball team can get on the field. Coming up, the team is scheduled to take on Madison Southern away at 5:45 p.m. this Thursday. This Saturday, they will travel to the Tates Creek Spring Fling, in which they will face Somerset at 10:30 a.m. and Tates Creek at 2:00 p.m. Next week, they will take on Powell County away at 5:30 p.m. on Monday and Garrard County at home at 6:00 p.m. on Tuesday.