Yes, Lyon County missed a trip to the Region 2 Tournament for the first time since 2010.

Yes, it seemed unfathomable that the run would ever end, but with a coaching turnover from Monty Todd and the return of only one senior in pitching sensation Sophie Bingham, there was always going to be a transition period on the horizon for 2018. Lyon County got it, and now it's on to year two of this new look club.

It's a new season, and new mindset.

Gone is Bingham from the mound, who left for the Murray State Racers after becoming one of the best pitchers in Region 2 who could ring up 10+ strikeouts on any given night, but Lyon County returns practically everyone else.

Bingham (who also played basketball for the Lady Lyons) was named to the All Region 2 team, the All District 5 team, the Class 1A All-State team and was named to the Kentucky Softball Coaches Association All-Academic team.

Bingham graduated as the school's all-time leader in pitching wins and strikeouts with 170 strikeouts in 130 innings with a .367 slugging percentage at the plate.

For a team that had its share of ups and downs in 2018 (11 of their players freshman or younger) and lost a pitcher the likes of Bingham, this freshman class is about to be pretty darn good.

Though this club is still set to sport out three eighth-graders and three seventh-graders, this team is undoubtedly wiser and another year older.

As it stands, there are no current seniors on this ball club, and only one junior in outfielder Allye Culp.

There are seven sophomores.

The Lady Lyons' oldest returning player and only upperclassman, Alley Culp, certainly packs a punch and holds her own.

Culp had a big summer in the circle, representing the Lady Lyons in the West Kentucky Elite 16U team, leading them to a championship in Clarksville and a perfect weekend.

In that tournament, Culp roared from the get-go with a no-hitter through the first four innings of her first game (also scoring a run on offense) and then led the Elite to a 5-2 win over the Nashville Stars in game 3 (four innings in the circle with just two runs allowed with five strikeouts) before her bat took the throne in the championship game with 2 RBIs (her lone at-bat) in an 8-1 win over the Nashville Stars again.

There's no question that Jason Collins, entering his second year as the head coach of the Lyon County Lady Lyons after a 17-14 season (good enough for the sixth best record in Region 2 in 2018 right behind Caldwell County), is ready for this challenge.

And there's no question that sophomore infielder Calista Collins is going to be an intricate part of this two month operation.

Maybe the most intricate of all.

"Calista brings a quiet kind of leadership," coach Collins said. "Obviously, she brings a big bat (.604 avg & 8 HR as freshman) but she also has a very high "Game IQ" and is almost like another coach on the field. She carries a lot of confidence and one of the hardest things to overcome being both a young team, and from a small school, is getting past the stigma's associated with that."

"The girls have to believe that they can compete with anyone. We are fortunate to have several strong, younger players that we hope are going to help elevate the level of play for what is overall a pretty young team."

Collins, Sydney Melton and Kaelyn Conger will be part of a distinguished sophomore class with Rachel Coursey, Tori Schenk, Kirsten and Kyra Craft.

Then there's Sydney Melton, who was a member of the St. Louis Chaos 16U softball club that made noise over the summer.

Kaelyn Conger also had some success on the mound with the St. Louis travel team, featuring a five-hit shutout game.

Calista Collins also played for the St. Louis Chaos organization, traveling as far as the West Coast over the summer.

"Conger really seemed to break out as a pitcher," coach Collins added. "She has really gained some control as well as some consistency and new pitches. Allye Culp and Tori Schenk got a lot of experience playing local travel ball."

Conger and Culp will provide a good rotation in the circle, while Schenk can change the pace with off-speed material on the mound in necessary situations.

When we last saw Lyon County, they got off to a fast start against Crittenden County in the District 5 semifinals on a Monday night in May, but had its season cut short by the Lady Comets 2-1 with a pair of runs in the bottom of the first inning via a swing by Ellie Smith.

Lyon County never got the hit that could tie the game, but the way that it stuck with Crittenden County all game long was plenty indication (including outhitting Crittenden County 7-5) that the Lady Lyons are going to be just fine.

Sophie Bingham struck out seven batters and allowed five hits in her final game as a Lady Lyon.

The returners in the circle include Culp, along with being one of the team's leaders, to stabilize along with Conger, Schenk and Walker.

Transfer Hadlie Butler (a freshman) and Jaiden Capello (a defensive specialist in the outfield) will comprise the freshman class, and Butler will bring speed with a consistent bat.

With Christian County selected to repeat as Region 2 Champions and Caldwell County not far behind them as the predicted sleeper in the area, Lyon County is thought to be in the middle tier of the 10 teams, selected sixth by the coaches ahead of the likes of Henderson County, Hopkins County Central and Union County.

More importantly, Lyon County might be the favorite to win the All-A Region 1 title as Calista Collins comes in as one of the top 12 talents Region 2 has to offer. Collins had a home run over the summer to beat the 14U Gametime Stars 13-2.

"We believe this is a year we can make a run at the All A region as well as the state but we will have to get through Crittenden, Livingston and a few others and that is never easy," Collins added. "We think we can compete for the district but again you have Crittenden and Trigg who looks to be very tough this season again. Region 2, as always, is arguably the toughest in the state from top to bottom. I see Christian, Caldwell and Webster along with the traditional Madisonville as the favorites. They all have strong seniors and juniors, which will make it tough, but we have scheduled them all and we are going to try to get to the level we can compete with them."

Lyon County could be a top five team in the region, but only time, and the development of their youth sooner rather than later, will tell.

Though it's just Collins second year as the head skipper, it's the experience that he has with this group since 8U rec league softball that gives this the feeling of a long-tenured relationship.

Collins packs a punch behind the bat, but how long will the pitching take to peak?

One thing is for sure, this roster is developing on the farm just right.

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