No, the state softball tournament wasn’t played this weekend. But you’d be forgiven for thinking that was the case; given recent results, it’d be surprising if any of the foursome that played in a round-robin at Scott County’s softball complex — Anderson County, Male, McCracken County and Scott County — failed to reach Owensboro in June.
Each program has won at least the last two titles in their respective region and is the favorite for another this season.
McCracken County and Scott County, ranked first and third by the coaches entering Saturday, won the two most recent state titles. The Mustangs bulldozed their way to last year’s finals before winning a tight one in extra innings versus Male. The year before, Scott County became the first 11th Region school to win it all after upending the Mustangs.
It’s strange to think of high school rivals being four hours apart, but that’s how it’s shaped up between McCracken and Scott.
“We play them as much as we play some of the teams at home,” McCracken County Coach Tony Hayden said with a laugh. “When we see Scott County on the front of that uniform, yes, we get a little bit more excited about it.”
The Mustangs improved their all-time record against the Cardinals to 5-1 with a 5-1 victory Saturday afternoon. McCracken scored runs in the third and fourth innings before swelling its lead to 5-0 in the top of the sixth, during which K.K. Telfair put a two-run shot over the center-field wall. Hannah Davis, a sophomore, hit a solo shot in the bottom of the sixth for Scott County’s only score.
Hayden said Hannah Ridolfi, a senior who’s signed with Union University in Tennessee, threw her best game of the season on Saturday. She gave up only three hits and walked one batter.
“That’s beautiful for her,” Hayden said. “She has a tendency of getting behind in the count a lot and then having to get over the plate. ... She worked her way out of it today and I’m pretty happy with what she did.”
Scott County dealt with in-game injuries to Jordan Ison and Sam Smith. Ison, a catcher, got kneed at home plate while tagging out Telfair in the second inning. Smith has been dealing with back spasms and that flared up as she made an early play at second base. Coach Jeff Portwood said both girls will be fine.
He and Hayden have a healthy respect for each other, and both seek as many high-pressure bouts as they can before the postseason gets underway. After all, they expect to go far.
“There’s a very good possibility that you could see all four of these teams in the final four of the state tournament,” Portwood said. “That’s why we invited this group. In my opinion, four of the best in the state.”
Cards overcome Male
About 50 minutes before Scott County’s game against McCracken began, it rallied from a two-run deficit to defeat Male 9-8 in a morning tilt.
Sophomore pitcher Kennedy Sullivan gave up a two-run homer to her Male counterpart, Olivia Suski, in the top of the seventh for an 8-6 Bulldogs lead. That blast capped a stretch of five straight Male runs with two outs.
In movie-like fashion, Sullivan put a three-run redemption strike into left field for a walkoff win after the Cards capitalized on some errors.
“I’ve said it all year: these girls have got the heart and they don’t give in,” Portwood said. “They’re in it ’til the end.”
Bulldogs Coach Josh Bloomer likened Saturday’s games to a state-tournament trip. Depending on how the draw shakes out, teams might have to overcome several top foes to even make it to the finals, so facing three in one day helps prepare kids for those moments.
“This is like a Saturday (at state),” Bloomer said. “ ... It’s a test of how can you bounce back from one game. So the message for us is ‘If you lose another one in the state, then you’re done and heading home.’”
The Cardinals defeated Anderson County, ranked sixth in the state, 9-1 on Friday night. Sullivan struck out 10 in that game. Scott County came out of its round-robin with a 16-2 record; it lost to McCracken County in Elizabethtown in March.