Just as Coach Scott Walters was trying to find the words to describe senior pitcher Sarah Howard, she came up behind him with a giant cooler full of ice for a big splashdown.
After the dousing — which only got him from the waist down because Howard's throwing arm was wrapped and iced, and she couldn't lift up the cooler — Walters had no trouble finding the words.
"Sarah's a nut," he said laughing. "She leads us by being a nut."
That "nut" cracked the Franklin County order, combining with reliever Tanner Tevis to hold the No. 23 Flyers to three hits and help the 10th-ranked Cardinals win the 11th Region title 4-0 at the University of Kentucky Softball Complex on Wednesday night.
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Howard wasn't just the star in the circle, but also in the batter's box, getting two RBI singles to send the Cards (27-5-1) back to the state tournament for the third time in four years, where they will face the 7th Region winner on June 11 in Owensboro.
Howard's single in the fourth was the first hit allowed by Emily Hampton. Then two more runners went home in that inning on a passed ball.
"That lead was really helpful because when you're on the mound, one run can make a big difference in how well you pitch," Howard said.
Tevis made it home again in the fifth on the other Howard single to make it 4-0.
The Cardinals, who won their ninth in a row, recorded their 15th shutout of the season. They avenged a region title loss to the Flyers last season.
But that wasn't on their minds or discussed in their super silly pre-game huddle.
"She's goofy," catcher Taber Lewis said of Howard. "But we all are. If someone stood in the huddle in the center of the field, you'd never know we were about to play a ball game. ... We like to come out relaxed and have a good time."
Howard sat down six Flyers in four innings, giving up two hits. Tevis finished the job, allowing just one hit and fanning three.
That one hit Tevis allowed was a triple by by the Flyers' lone senior Dana Jarboe, who got two of their three hits.
Coach Tracy Spickard said she couldn't be more proud of her senior or her team's overall effort.
"They transformed into a team that worked tooth and nail to defend their title," Spickard said. "They played with a lot of heart the last third of the season, and because of that we were able to do a lot of great things."
Scott County 000 310 0—4 6 0
Franklin County 000 000 0—0 3 2
Sarah Howard, Tanner Tevis (5) and Taber Lewis. Emily Hampton and Brandi Allen. W—Howard. L—Hampton. 3B—Dana Jarboe (FC).
Records—Scott County 27-5-1, Franklin County 24-15.
All-tournament team: Sarah Howard (MVP), Ashley Whitlock, Taber Lewis, Bree Saunders, Scott Co.; Dana Jarboe, Emily Hampton, Mollie Stephens, Franklin Co.; Heather Oakley, Brittany Sims, Lafayette; Haylee King, Christina Ciolek, Madison Central; Shelby Schneid, Model; Ashton Salyers, Dunbar; Emily Harrod, Western Hills.