The champs are back in The Show.
Defending state champion Scott County punched a ticket to the State Softball Tournament by blanking Woodford County 3-0 in Thursday's finals of the 11th Region tourney at Paul Laurence Dunbar.
The third-ranked Cardinals (30-8) will open play in the State Tournament on Thursday at 6 p.m. (Eastern) against the 6th Region winner (Mercy or Louisville Holy Cross) at Jack C. Fisher Park in Owensboro.
"I think we can make a run at it," Coach Jeff Portwood said. "We've got the team. We've got the talent. If we can just put it all together like we have this week, I don't see a problem."
Sixth-ranked Woodford County ended the year 33-4-1.
"We had a great year. This is the best year in Woodford County history," Coach Sasha Turansky said. "We won more games than any Woodford County team has. We had the highest ranking any Woodford County team's ever had. So we're hoping to build on this. And one of these days it'll be our day. It just wasn't today."
Woodford right-hander Bethany Todd was perfect through three innings in a scoreless ball game.
That all changed in the fourth, when Scott County scored all its runs.
"We get that first look at the pitcher," Portwood said. "The second time through, we're usually talking, if you see — we're usually talking back and forth. And it's worked for us. And again today we had that big inning, and the second time through we did it."
Leadoff batter Halie Fain drew a walk on a full-count pitch, then advanced to third on a double by Hannah Davis.
Sam Luckett then delivered a two-run single.
"I just knew I had to take it upon myself to get a hit," said Luckett, who leads the Cardinals in home runs and RBI. "It's my senior year. I had to do something about it. So whatever it takes to win the game."
Luckett wound up taking second on the throw to the plate, and continued to third when the throw sailed all the way to the backstop.
She scored on Jordan Ison's groundout.
Meanwhile, Scott County right-hander Kennedy Sullivan, the tournament MVP, worked in and out of trouble.
Woodford County put a runner on third with one out in the second. A sliding catch by right fielder Grace Mullins and an infield popup ended the threat.
In the fifth, a pair of errors gave the Yellowjackets runners on second and third with two outs.
Ariel Dailey hit a hard grounder, only to be robbed when shortstop Hannah Davis went into the hole and first baseman Sam Smith made a big stretch for the final out.
Woodford would put two on with two outs again in the sixth and seventh innings, but Sullivan escaped each time on fly balls.
"Just let the defense work always," Sullivan said of her knack for escaping jams. "That's what we've been preaching all year. And just to hit my spots."
Woodford stranded nine runners overall.
"We had a lot of chances there to score runs," Turansky said. "We had runners on almost every inning in the game and we just weren't able to push them across."
Kaitlyn Coleman had two of Woodford's six hits.
Scott County finished with only four hits, including two by Luckett.
"We prepared hard for this. We knew it wasn't going to be an easy battle going up against Woodford," Portwood said. "They've got a great team. Well coached. Just pleased with the girls' overall effort."
SCOTT CO. 3, WOODFORD Co. 0
Woodford Co. 000 000 0—0 6 1
Scott Co. 000 300 x—3 4 2
Todd and Head; Sullivan and Ison. 2B—Corum (WC), Davis (SC).
All-tournament team—Model: Haley Hunt; Western Hills: Lakenzie Ritchie; Lafayette: Kecia Stephens; Henry Clay: Beth Ann Hamilton; Paul Dunbar: Shelby Shanks, Abby Schweighardt; Madison Central: Morgan Elliston, McKenzie Murphy; Woodford Co.: Bethany Todd, Caitlin Karo, Lindsay Anderson; Scott Co.: Sam Luckett, Jordan Ison, Hannah Davis, Kennedy Sullivan.
MVP—Kennedy Sullivan, Scott Co.