OWENSBORO — The challenge on a ball field — "hit 'em where they ain't" — is more difficult than it sounds.
Witness Scott County in Thursday's opening round of the Rawlings/KHSAA Softball State Tournament at Jack C. Fisher Park.
The eighth-ranked Cardinals hit plenty of balls hard, but were held to five hits and no runs as third-ranked Greenwood rolled to a 3-0 victory.
"Greenwood's an excellent ball team, been one of the top teams all year long," said Scott Walters, coach of the Cards. "We just couldn't string nothing together today. We hit the ball hard, just right at them. Just the way it is."
Scott County's best chance came in the first inning, when two walks and a double loaded the bases with one out.
Katie Stamper grounded a hot shot right to second baseman Alexia Dean, who tagged the runner trying to go to second, then relayed to first for a double play.
The Gators (37-5) came back in the bottom of the first to score the only run they would need.
Emily Gravette drew a leadoff walk and scored from second base on Aeron Smith's two-out single up the middle.
"Ooo! That was more than huge," Greenwood Coach Penny Preece said of the first-inning double play. "That's just textbook there. ... We were expecting to have to make a play and throw home or whatever. So that was huge.
"Scoring the first run in fast-pitch softball is huge, so to be able to hold them and come out and do it — big."
Greenwood added a pair of unearned runs in the sixth, getting a two-out triple by Smith, an error and two more hits.
"They had a couple of seeing-eye balls, right on the chalk, and ours were just a little bit over," Walters said. "Tough. But we'll come back tomorrow, I believe. This team hasn't folded."
The Cardinals (32-8-1) will meet Bullitt East in an elimination game Friday at 11 a.m. CDT.
"If you could have heard in that (post-game) huddle over there, we had a senior (Kaitlyn Spears) step up and say 'somebody has to take the hard route, somebody has to come from the losers' bracket, and why not it be us,'" said Marlee Tevis, who held Greenwood to seven hits. "That determination, I think it's going to carry us a long way."
Kelsey Crowe led Scott County with two hits.
Greenwood, which got two-hit games from Smith and Katelyn Merritt, will take on Mercy in the winners' bracket.
Preece is hoping her team will settle down after what she saw as a jittery start.
"None of these kids on my team, which is no seniors at all, have ever been to the state tournament. So it's a whole new experience," Preece said. "We brought in some older kids this week that won it in 2008 and they talked to them, and they told them 'you're going to be nervous.' ... But we finally got our pitcher settled down and got out of a few jams, and obviously that's going to get your confidence going."