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As Oldham County charged to a second straight Region 8 title last year, one of its best players was stuck in the dugout.
Kailey Rigdon, a junior first baseman garnering Division-I interest, dove back into third base during a game over the 2013 spring break. The momentum of her dive carried her body forward, but her arm stayed put, grabbing the base.
A season-ending torn labrum in her shoulder was the result. The injury was especially frustrating, Rigdon said, because it affected her college plans.
“It was kind of disheartening,” said Rigdon, now a senior. “I had D-I scholarships in line and then when I told them I was hurt, they all went away.
“So I was starting from scratch again... I was worried I wasn’t going to be able to play college ball anymore.”
But her travel ball coach suggested Rigdon make a visit to Kentucky Christian University, an NAIA school in Grayson. She loved the school, she said, and signed with KCU last fall.
Her college plans now in line, Rigdon’s dedicated this spring to leading OC to another state tournament appearance in her final year.
Rigdon hits third in the lineup for the Lady Colonels and has hit this season the way someone in the 3-hole should be expected.
She’s currently hitting .579 for OC, which was 8-4-1 as of press time. She’s hit one home run and has 11 RBIs, two triples and two doubles.
“If we can get our one and two-hitters to second, I can rely on her to knock them in,” coach Steve Leanhart said of Rigdon. “She’s done real well.”
Rigdon’s big numbers have come just months after she said she had to change her swing as a result of her shoulder injury.
“I think I’ve gotten better with my bat speed and engaging my back leg more,” she said.
Rigdon has also made an adjustment in the field, moving across the infield to play third base, where she said KCU is planning to use her in college.
Putting Rigdon at third has given the Lady Colonels a strong-armed and athletic infielder on the hot corner, Leanhart said.
“She’s very tall and with her wingspan, she can really get to the ball quick,” he said. “She’s quick off her feet... and she definitely has the strongest arm on our team.”
In addition to hitting third and playing third, Rigdon serves as team captain.
Rigdon, Briana Cook, Madison Reed and Rayne Shelton are the only seniors on a roster that’s talented, but young.
Rigdon, who wants to major in secondary education and coach high school softball, said she enjoys the “one-on-one interaction” that comes with captaining a young squad.
“I’m more of an on-the-field leader,” she said. ‘Every senior has a different role when it comes to the team... I’m quiet, but I’ll tell people what they need to fix or little things they can do to make their game better.
“I think it’s a good experience for me to work with young players who are really talented but need to fine-tune some things.”
Rigdon draws a lot on her experiences from the 2013 season in offering instruction to younger players.
She effectively shadowed the coaching staff while she was hurt last season, learning how to lead a softball program. That period gave her some insight on what she hopes will be her future profession.
“I got to watch what goes into planning a practice,” Rigdon said. “I usually thought (coaches) just threw something together, but they had a full-length, mapped-out idea of how long things will take and different drills we were going to work on.”
Rigdon’s current coach, Leanhart, said she has the potential to be an effective coach down the road.
“I’ve been telling her, ‘You’re going to be a coach one day,’ because she’s really smart,” Leanhart said. “...Sometimes I’ll say things and she’ll come back with ‘How about this?’ or ‘Let’s try this.’ She knows the game real well.”
But while coaching goals are in the future, a third straight region championship is the current objective for the Lady Colonels.
OC is coming off a 4-1 week at the Florida Beach Bash at Fort Walton Beach, Fla., over spring break. The Lady Colonels won their first four games of the tournament, including games against in-state foes North Hardin and Lawrence County, before falling in the final game to Columbia Academy (Tenn.)
Rigdon said this OC team expects to end its season at the state championships in Owensboro this summer for a third straight year.
“I think we’re a top contender to win region,” Rigdon said. “I think with how we played this past week, I see us competing with the top teams in the state.”