FRANKFORT — There was an uncertain feel to Thursday's finals of the 11th Region Softball Tournament.
Scott County took a 1-0 lead in the first inning but always seemed on the verge of collapse as Woodford County kept trying to chip away.
A collapse never came, though, as Scott County pulled away for a 4-1 victory at Lakeview Park, thus earning a return trip to the State Tournament at Owensboro.
"They're fun to be around and they always believe they're going to win," Cardinals Coach Scott Walters said. "So they always know they're going to get out of a situation. They've been in them all year long. That's what we tell them: trust. Trust your preparation."
Scott County (33-4) will take a four-game winning streak to next week's state tourney.
Woodford finished 23-11, including a 10-0 loss to Scott County on April 9.
"We did a great job," Yellow Jackets Coach Sasha Turansky said. "We talked yesterday about a game plan and we went out and executed it. We had runners on in every inning, I think.
"We really didn't give them the opportunity to take an inning off, and that's what makes me really happy — we took it to them as much as we could. We just didn't have enough."
Woodford put runners on in every inning except one, but left 11 stranded.
"We like to make it interesting, I think," said Marlee Tevis, who got the win by scattering seven hits while working out of jam after jam. "The key is keeping confident. Keeping confident in our defense and our offense. We are a very strong team when we use our potential."
Scott County struck for a run in the top of the first.
Madison Mullin led off with a single, then took two bases on Kelsey Crowe's sacrifice bunt.
Tournament MVP Michal Luckett knocked Mullin in with a double off the top of the fence in left-center.
The Cardinals pushed the gap to 2-0 in the third.
Luckett, who reached on a fielder's choice, stole second.
Tevis knocked her home with a single to center.
Woodford broke through for a run in the fourth, but left the bases loaded.
Shelby Abel led off with a single up the middle, then came all the way around on Rachel McCoy's double down the left-field line.
Alert play on the Cardinals' part kept Woodford from doing more damage in the fifth.
Cheyenne Jamison led off with a double.
Keely Moussette then hit a comebacker. Tevis looked Jamison back to second, then threw to first baseman Elaina Johnson.
Jamison tried to take third on a delayed break, but Johnson gunned her down to complete a double play.
"Trusting our defense," Walters said of his team's ability to pull through. "We got out of a lot of jams with some popups. And I thought the look-back in the first-to-third, that was huge. ... That was a rally killer there."
Scott County took a 4-1 lead in the sixth, when Tevis doubled in Luckett. Tevis later scored on a fielder's choice, and a victory started to feel a bit more certain.
"Team effort," Walters said. "I think everybody contributed something in this tournament. I'm very pleased with the whole group."
Tevis notched her only 1-2-3 inning of the game in the bottom of the sixth, and allowed only a two-out walk in the seventh.
So the Cardinals are bound for state once more.
"We talked about going back to Owensboro all year," Luckett said. "We've worked really hard for it and we were just lucky to come out on top today. They worked really hard and so did we.
"I think we can go really far as long as we keep hitting and keep playing good defense."
SCOTT CO. 4, WOODFORD CO. 1
Scott Co. 101 002 0—4 6 1
Woodford Co. 000 100 0—1 7 1
Tevis and Crowe; Abel and Head. 2B — M. Luckett (SC), Tevis (SC), McCoy (WC), Jamison (WC).
All-tournament team: Kirsten Spellman (Madison Central); Sarah Cooley (Lafayette); Paige King (Madison Southern); Emily Norton (Dunbar); Riley Stokes and Brittany Sears (Henry Clay); Kara Howard and Macy Johnson (Franklin Co.); Rachel McCoy, Kyla Simpson and Shelby Abel (Woodford Co.); Katie Stamper, Elaina Johnson, Marlee Tevis and Michal Luckett (Scott Co.). MVP — Luckett.
At Whitaker Bank Ballpark in Lexington
Monday's first-round games
11 a.m. — Apollo vs. Mercer Co.
1:30 p.m. — 13th Region vs. 15th Region
6 p.m. — Henderson Co. vs. Letcher Co. Central
8:30 p.m. — 8th Region vs. Tates Creek
Tuesday's first-round games
11 a.m. — Ashland Blazer vs. 6th Region
1:30 p.m. — 7th Region vs. Logan Co.
6 p.m. — Harrison Co. vs. 9th Region
8:30 p.m. — Lone Oak vs. Central Hardin
6, 8:30 p.m. — Quarterfinals
6, 8:30 p.m. — Semifinals
7 p.m. — State championship
At Jack C. Fisher Park in Owensboro
(Double elimination; all times EDT)
Thursday's first-round matchups
■ 9th Region vs. Montgomery Co.
■ 4th Region vs. 13th Region
■ Lone Oak vs. Central Hardin
■ 11th Region vs. 7th Region
■ Estill Co. vs. Boyle Co.
■ Oldham Co. vs. 6th Region
■ Livingston Central vs. Owensboro Catholic
■ Magoffin Co. vs. Ashland Blazer
What: Rawlings/KHSAA Fast Pitch Softball Tournament
When: Thursday, 5 p.m.
Where: Jack C. Fisher Park in Owensboro
Who: 11th Region champion vs. 7th Region champion