Four softball games will be played before noon on Friday that just as easily could have been played as the state championship game on Saturday night.
"If you're going to say you're good, you've got to show you're good," said David Joiner, coach of top-ranked Christian County. "And we're going to have to show we're good real quick."
When a blind draw is involved, anything can happen. The result for this year's state softball tournament is three games between top-10 teams in the first round of the double-elimination event at Owensboro's Jack Fisher Park.
The marquee game is the No. 1 Colonels versus third-ranked, defending state champion Owensboro Catholic.
"It's gonna be a tough, tough game, no doubt," Aces Coach George Randolph said. "They're playing better than anybody in the state right now."
Christian County won the regular-season matchup, but Joiner said that doesn't mean much because the Aces didn't throw ace Martina Riney.
Joiner said his team, which has won 14 straight games and allowed only 33 runs, is trying not to worry about things it can't control.
"Draw stuff is overrated," he said. "You can spend all your time thinking about it or you can go out and play the game."
As proof of first-round opponents being irrelevant, Joiner only had to go back to last season.
"Last year we had a better draw than we've ever had and we were eliminated quicker than ever before," he said.
Just up the bracket is a game between No. 5 North Laurel and No. 7 Allen County-Scottsville. North Laurel has won 16 straight games.
Another big first-round game is 11th Region champion Scott County, ranked No. 10, against sixth-ranked Mercy, which advanced to the title game last season.
The Cards, who have won nine in a row, fell to the Jaguars 4-0 in the regular season.
Coach Scott Walters is pragmatic about the first-round matchup.
"You've gotta play the best to be the best, I guess that's what they say," he said. "We'd rather play a top team when we're fresh than when we're tired in the losers' bracket."
That's especially true given the forecast for temperatures to hover around 90 degrees during the two-day event.
Walters said the Cardinals played "uncharacteristically poor defense" against Mercy, which has won six in a row.
"Every error we made cost us a run," he said. "They made us pay for every defensive mistake we made. We've worked really, really hard to not let that happen again."
In the game just above the Cardinals in the state bracket, which was drawn early in the spring, is No. 8 Reidland against No. 17 Green County.
The only other ranked team in the tournament, according to the final coaches' poll, is No. 25 Clark County, which faces Ashland Blazer in the first round to meet the winner of Scott County and Mercy. Jackie McCloud's Cardinals have won six in a row and 12 of their last 13 games.
But no matter who plays whom, eventually everyone is going to have to play someone.
"There isn't a bad team once you get to the state tournament level," Randolph said. "If you made it here, you're going to be a good team."
Jenkins comes into the state tournament — its first in school history — holding an impressive record. Its 438 runs scored this season bests a 13-year-old record held by Bell County, which had 415 runs in 1997.
■ There are five former state champions in the field of 16 in Reidland, Christian County, Owensboro Catholic, North Laurel and Ryle. The Aces have five titles.