Kennedy Sullivan was a difference-maker for Scott County’s softball team on Thursday night, but it wasn’t on the mound.
Sullivan, the Cardinals’ junior ace who’s committed to Western Kentucky University, sent a two-run shot over the left-field wall to lift Scott County to a 5-3 win over Woodford County in a battle between the 11th Region’s top programs.
Kelsey Southard, also a junior, got the win for the Cardinals. She relieved starter Megan Murphy, a senior, after Woodford County got singles from its first two batters in the fifth inning. Southard gave up a go-ahead single to Woodford’s Caitlin Karo before a pair of outfield flyouts ended the frame.
Southard retired six of the next seven batters she faced in what was the biggest game of her pitching life. She’d seen some time on the mound for the Cardinals this season, but not against the likes of a top-five program.
“What else can I say about Kelsey?” Scott County Coach Jeff Portwood said. “We keep telling her, ‘Keep working hard and you’ll get that opportunity.’ She got that opportunity tonight and ran with it. That’s a good thing. Getting ready to go into postseason we’ve got three strong pitchers that we can throw so that’s a good plus.”
Portwood contemplated calling upon Sullivan, who’s pitched a perfect game this season and was a sophomore workhorse for Scott County as it won the 2016 state title, but decided to ride Southard.
“But Kelsey was holding her own so there was no reason to, and we took it batter for batter,” Portwood said. “ … She performed well. I’m very proud of her.”
Scott County took a 2-0 lead in the bottom of the first inning after a triple by Hannah Davis scored Carly Oliver, which then led to Davis reaching home on a throwing error. The Cardinals stranded three baserunners in the first frame.
Woodford County evened things in the top of the second on a two-run single by Bethany Todd, a University of Kentucky commit who took the loss on the mound. Todd finished with a game-high 10 strikeouts.
Karo’s single in the fifth gave the Yellow Jackets their first lead, but it was short-lived. Halie Fain reached on an error to lead off the second part of the inning and moved to second on a fielder’s choice. Oliver got a double to skirt up the third-base line and into the outfield to tie the game at 3-3.
Oliver moved to third on a sacrifice fly before Sullivan stepped up and hammered her decisive hit. Sullivan said the key was locking in on Todd’s strong rising ball.
“We’ve hit off of her for years and that’s exactly what she does,” Sullivan said. “She throws the high ball and you’ve just got to look for that one pitch where she just throws it in the zone when she’s trying to get ahead. That’s what I was doing. I was just focusing on that one pitch and she finally threw it and it was just at a great time.”
Scott County, undefeated against Kentucky competition and ranked No. 1 in both the coaches’ poll and the MaxPreps computer rankings, extended its win streak to five games over Woodford County, ranked fifth in the coaches’ poll and fourth by MaxPreps. The Cardinals won 7-0 in a neutral-site game between the programs last month.
Woodford County Coach Les Anderson feels like his team is capable of knocking off the Cardinals, but it will have to master “controlling failure” to do so.
“It’s gonna take a perfect game to beat ’em,” Anderson said of Scott County. “All the way around. Perfect on the circle, perfect in the field and perfect at the plate.
“We’re close. I thought we played well. We could have very easily came out of this game on the other side of it.”
Scott County 5, Woodford County 3
Todd and Hampton; Murphy, Southard (5) and Valencia. W—Southard. L—Todd. 2B—WC: Rose. SC: Oliver, Valencia. 3B—Davis. HR—Sullivan.
Records: Scott County 21-2, Woodford County 19-5.