OWENSBORO — Owensboro Catholic took quite the scenic route to its fifth state softball championship on Saturday.
Forced to play Mercy three times in one day, the Lady Aces regrouped and put together a dominant performance, jumping on the Jaguars for four runs in the first inning of the third game en route to a five-inning, 12-2 win in front of pro-OCHS crowd at Jack Fisher Park.
It marked Owensboro Catholic's first state title since 2005.
The Lady Aces looked like they would cruise to the title, outscoring their opponents in the first four games by a combined score of 39-4. But with the state championship just a win away, OCHS lost 4-3 to Mercy. a team it had beaten 4-2 earlier in the day.
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Throw in the fact that its starting pitcher, Martina Riney, appeared to be on her last legs during that game, and things didn't look good for the Lady Aces.
Mercy seemed to have the momentum after winning the second game, but the Jaguars were done in by shoddy defense. The Jags won the second game despite committing three errors, but things got much worse in the final. Owensboro Catholic capitalized on those miscues to win the title.
Emily Jolly started off a four-run rally by reaching on an error by Amanda Schumacher and later scored on another error by first baseman Morgan Ellington. Riney did her part at the plate with an RBI single in the big inning.
Owensboro Catholic struck for three more runs in the second inning, and Riney seemed to get her second wind after that.
The game ended in the fifth inning when Brianne James' single scored Emily Jolly. It was only the second time in the history of the fast-pitch state tournament that the championship game ended on the mercy rule. Reidland beat Manual 13-2 in the first state title game in 1995.
The Lady Aces had hoped to clinch the title on their first try, but Riney was clearly laboring. She threw a whopping 30 pitches in the first inning, and Kelsey Wood's bloop hit scored Ashley McNutt to give Mercy a 1-0 lead.
Owensboro Catholic had hoped to have hot bats to offset Riney's fatigue but only got three hits off Mercy starter Marissa Hobson. Instead, the Lady Aces used aggressive baserunning to stay in it. OCHS had runners on second and third when Jolly took a huge lead off second base. Catcher Kellie Quarles' pick-off attempt sailed into center field, scoring Sarah Babb and Jolly to put the Lady Aces ahead 2-1.
Mercy then went back in front 3-2 in the fifth when Chelsea Meiners scored on a passed ball, but OCHS tied it in its half of the inning when first baseman Morgan Ellington's error scored pinch-runner Brittany Murphy.
Mercy's McNutt then came up big in the sixth, lacing a single to left field that scored Paige French for the winning run.