Kentucky's softball coaches will have a tough choice to make when it comes to picking a Miss Softball winner after this weekend's state tournament is complete.
Should it be pitcher Montana Fouts, who in two of the last three seasons willed East Carter to an unbeaten regular-season record and has been the biggest reason the Raiders have played in three straight state tournaments?
Or will the voters favor Kennedy Sullivan, Scott County's ace who has been part of two state championship squads and is primed for a third title if Cardinals keep up their hot hitting through the weekend?
The senior-season stats, purely on paper, rule for Fouts. She brought a ridiculous 0.07 ERA into this year's state tournament and was batting .604 with 66 RBI. Sullivan had a 0.26 ERA with a .427 average and 50 RBI entering state.
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Fouts last week was named Kentucky's Gatorade Softball Player of the Year for the third straight year, the first player in state history to achieve that distinction. Is their more hardware in her immediate future?
"I think she's got a good shot," East Carter Coach Derek Calhoun said of Fouts. " ... It's hard to not give it to a kid that's done as much as she has in the circle and in the batter's box."
Strength of schedule often is another big factor for voters, and that's a metric that favors Sullivan by a landslide. East Carter in recent seasons has added a number of marquee regular-season opponents outside of eastern Kentucky but Scott County has weekly taken on the heaviest of hitters in Sullivan's time with the program, and more often than not finished on the winning side of those contests.
"If you just take those two girls, between Montana and Kennedy, they're both extremely good pitchers," said Scott County Coach Jeff Portwood. "In my opinion, you've got to play in our strength of schedule to play into that picture. With that said, I think Kennedy has held her own and she deserves that spot. I think it's been proven."
It's not uncommon for one of the state's titular individual awards to come down to an argument between prolific individual success and great individual accomplishments backed by overall team performance. Both types of campaigns have yielded winners, too.
Big-stat producer Erin Boley, whose Elizabethtown teams were a girls' Sweet Sixteen mainstay, in 2016 took Miss Basketball honors over Whitney Creech, who put up gaudy scoring numbers and finished as the state's all-time career leader but never was able to take Jenkins to a state tournament.
Kash Daniel never played in the state football finals but was able to win Mr. Football in 2015 after a star turn as a quarterback and linebacker at Paintsville. Hayden Shelton, who had terrific numbers while quarterbacking Male to an undefeated title in the state's largest class, was an afterthought for most voters that year.
Often it might boil down to who's going to the biggest school, but not always. Yes, Boley (Notre Dame) and Daniel (UK) had made the biggest commitments among their peers, but one need only look to this year's Mr. Basketball race, in which Trevon Faulkner (NKU) topped CJ Fredrick (Iowa), to see that Power Five pledges don't make it a lock.
Fouts is headed to the University of Alabama, one of the top softball programs in the country each season. Sullivan has signed with WKU, which in its history has played in only two NCAA Tournaments.
"If they're going to the big school, it's hard not to give it to 'em," Portwood said. "But, again, I'm partial."
Perhaps it won't even be a pitcher who wins it. Portwood raised the possibility of another Cardinal, Hannah Davis, having a shot at the award. Before state she was batting .618, had driven in 50 runs and scored 51 — again, against one of the toughest schedules in the state. She was part of the same title teams as Sullivan and has signed with UK, to boot, which in many cases has been the ultimate trump card for these type of awards.
Or maybe Davis splits votes with Sullivan, leaving the door open for Fouts to win in a walk. History's on the line in any scenario: If any of those three wins, it'll be the first for their school.
Will the coaches choose to recognize a dynasty in Georgetown or Grayson's equivalent to LeBron James? That there's even a discussion occurring is a great sign for Kentucky high school softball.
Miss Softball winners
2017: Kaylee Tow, Madisonville
2016: Audrey Dodd, McCracken County
2015: Megan Hensley, Ashland Blazer
2014: Jessica Adell, Ballard
2013: Ashely Coppage, Harrison County
2012: Kelsi Pardue, Allen County-Scottsville
2011: Griffin Joiner, Christian County
2010: Emily Gaines, South Laurel
2009: Amber Riddle, Rowan County
2008: Kirsten Allen, Ryle
2007: Megan Aull, Owensboro Catholic
2006: Brittany York, Greenwood
2005: Michelle Critchelow, Grayson County
2004: Megan Jolly, Owensboro Catholic
2003: Brooke Marnitz, Paul Laurence Dunbar
2002: Becky Abner, North Laurel
2001: Sara Hawkins, South Laurel
2000: Suzanne Witten, Butler
1999: Dana Smith, Reidland
1998: Kendra Hinerman, Lafayette
1997: Jackie Elston, Manual
1996: Brittani Collini, Jeffersontown
1995: Kelly Johnson, Warren Central