OWENSBORO — Scott County served notice Thursday that it won't easily be denied in the Worth/KHSAA State Softball Tournament.
Kennedy Sullivan twirled a four-hit shutout and Sam Luckett scored the winning run in the top of the ninth inning as the defending champions slipped past Mercy 1-0 in first-round play.
The double-elimination tourney continues through Saturday at Jack C. Fisher Park. Third-ranked Scott County will face No. 4 Male at 10 a.m. EDT Friday.
"We knew we were going to have to come out and fight," said Sullivan, who struck out 10 and walked two. "Because we won the first one (on May 2) and they won the second one (on May 12), so trying to see who won the tie-breaker."
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Luckett led off the ninth with a single up the middle.
Jordan Ison followed with a slow bouncer to shortstop. She beat out the play for a hit, and when the throw to first by Lexy Wright bounced down the right-field line, Luckett kept running all the way home. A throw to the plate was off line.
"We got lucky that they made the error. ... So we acted on it," said Luckett, who never hesitated rounding third. "I did whatever Coach told me to do."
Cardinals Coach Jeff Portwood had plenty of confidence that Luckett could score.
"She's very aggressive on the bases," Portwood said. "She's got some good speed, and if she's got the opportunity, she's got the green light. She knows what to do, and we're playing for one run. So that's what we did."
Sullivan set Mercy down in order in the bottom of the ninth.
"My curve," Sullivan said in identifying her best pitch. "We threw a lot of curves. We worked in and out. We worked out and then we tried to come back and jam them inside."
No. 10 Mercy (23-14) got half of its four hits from No. 5 hitter Kasey Kinsey, including a leadoff single in the second.
A hit batsman and a pair of stolen bases then gave the Jaguars runners on second and third with one out, but Sullivan struck out the next two batters.
"I was kind of struggling at first hitting my spots and I tried to settle in that second inning to get out what the umpire's calling," she said. "So we just kind of figured out what was working, and finally it just came together."
The Cardinals (31-8) had their best chance to score in regulation when Hannah Davis ripped a two-out triple in the third inning, but Luckett flied out to right.
Davis' hit was one of only four allowed by Mercy lefty Leigh Ellen Thomas.
Scott County turned in a few exceptional defensive plays, including a line-out double play in the seventh inning.
"All year long," Portwood said of the snappy defensive effort. "Hannah at shortstop, Sam (Smith) over at first base a couple times. Just great defense all the way around. We've prided ourself all year on our defense."
Anderson Co. 6, Central Hardin 4: Kaci Currens and Sammy Rogers had three hits each for the fifth-ranked Bearcats (31-8).
Anderson will meet top-ranked McCracken County in Friday's second round.
The Bearcats broke a 3-3 tie by scoring a pair of runs in the fourth.
Allyson Moore and Mia Aldridge combined to scatter nine hits by No. 12 Central Hardin (32-8-1).
Currens, Aldridge and Corrin Robinson drove in two runs each.
Leadoff batter Mariah Bryant led the Bruins with three hits.
East Jessamine 10, Estill Co. 4: Hannah James drove in four runs and Olivia Day added three for the No. 19 Jaguars.
East (32-6) jumped on top with five runs in the top of the first and led 8-2 through three innings. The Jaguars won despite committing seven errors.
"By our standards, not very well," Coach Tom Hamm said in describing how his team played. "But they played good enough to win. They hit the ball and carried the middle of the lineup, which usually does the most production for us. They didn't hit very well. And we made (seven) errors, which is more errors than we've made in like 10 games all year.
"But we came out here and got the win. That's all that matters. ... I think nerves might have had a lot to do with (the errors). And we hadn't ever won a game at the state tournament, but we've won one now."
East will meet Ashland Blazer in Friday's second round.
Estill (20-16) was led by McKeely Muncie and Mac Kenzie Angel with two hits each.
Ashland Blazer 3, Notre Dame 0: Megan Hensley tossed a one-hitter and drove in a pair of first-inning runs for the 17th-ranked Kittens.
Hensley struck out 14 and walked one.
Megan Griffith added a second-inning RBI.
Cori Ladanyi had the lone hit for Notre Dame (26-7-1).
Johnson Central 6, North Laurel 5: Jayla Spurlock's bases-loaded RBI single gave the Eagles a walkoff win, capping a two-run rally.
Rachelle Fairchild led Johnson Central (27-10) with three hits and two RBI.
NaTasha Colwell had three hits and an RBI for North Laurel (25-12-1).
Male 6, Madisonville-North Hopkins 0: The Bulldogs (34-7) did all the scoring in the sixth inning.
Taylor Childress, Amanda McIver and Hannah Poynter each had two hits for the winner, while Olivia Suski tossed a three-hitter. Suski struck out two and walked two.
McCracken Co. 15, Daviess Co. 2: The state's top-ranked team scored three runs in the bottom of the first en route to a lopsided win over the hometown team.
Kelsee Henson and Hannah Ridolfi each had three hits for McCracken (33-3).