McCracken County High School's softball team entering Wednesday was 59-0 against 1st Region opponents, a record dating back to the program's inception in the 2014 season. That incredible goose egg no longer exists.
Ballard Memorial defeated McCracken County, 3-2, in the semifinals of the 1st Region tournament at Murray High School on Wednesday.
The Bombers scored one of the biggest upsets in Kentucky fast-pitch softball history, if not the biggest, to advance to their second straight region finals.
"It shocked us too," Ballard Memorial Coach Danny Leidecker said with a laugh. "You just never know what's gonna happen."
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McCracken County, formed by the consolidation of Heath, Lone Oak and Reidland beginning in the 2013-14 school year, was ranked seventh in the state and had played in three of the last four state championship games, and won it all in 2015. This school year it was the largest school in the 1st Region and the seventh-largest in the state with 2,032 students (1,020 girls); Ballard Memorial is one of the the smallest in the region with 391 students (168 girls).
Most spectators and pundits across the state had written off the Bombers, who went 12-11 in the regular season and had lost twice to the Mustangs this season by a combined scored of 32-1 in a total of eight innings. The Bombers threw senior ace Shelby Elrod, whom the Mustangs hadn't faced in their previous meetings this season.
"We really hadn't shown McCracken our best," Leidecker said. " ... Tonight we threw our ace and she pretty much threw a flawless game. They did hit the ball, but she hit her spots and the defense behind her tonight was just phenomenal. We couldn't ask for a better time. We knew they could do it."
Ballard Memorial, now 15-12, hadn't made the 1st Region finals since 2002 until last season, when it suffered a 21-2 four-inning loss to McCracken County. The Bombers have never played in the state tournament, and will face off against either Graves County or Marshall County for that chance on Thursday. They'll again be underdogs, but this time they'll be on everyone's radar. And almost everyone will be cheering them on.
"I told my girls, 10 years from now when you look back on the regionals nobody's gonna know who won the regional tournament," Leidecker said. "But they're always gonna remember who was the first one to beat McCracken. They did the unthinkable."