Scott County played Warren East for the state softball championship on Saturday. Then it played the Raiders again for the fun of it.
The Cardinals defeated Warren East, 10-0, in six innings to finish off its title run in the Owensboro Health/KHSAA State Softball Tournament at Jack C. Fisher Park on Saturday. Scott County earlier in the day took down the Raiders, 2-1, in a 13-inning, four-hour battle that was more befitting of the "state championship" label.
Warren East was worn down by the time the two teams met again four and a half hours later. The Raiders strung together a nine-run inning to overcome Butler, 9-5, in the tournament's final consolation game to earn a second shot at Scott County. They would have had to defeat the Cardinals twice to win the championship.
Scott County was determined to prevent a third matchup. The Cardinals scored seven runs over the first two innings and kept Warren East without a baserunner through the first four innings.
Katie Gardner, Warren East's ace junior, allowed only five hits in a complete game while throwing 218 pitches in the first meeting. The Cardinals dinged her for that many in the second game through two frames before Emma Markham, an eighth-grader, threw the remainder.
"We faced this pitcher earlier and I knew they'd played a couple games and they were a little gassed, but we were more aggressive in the box and knew 'This is us, we need to win, this is our state and nobody's gonna take it from us,'" Scott County senior Hannah Davis said. "We knew that we needed to pick it up a little bit and not go 13 innings again, so we were like, 'Let's just get this game over with sooner.'"
Davis was 2-for-4 with three RBI and scored three runs, her last off a triple that effectively became an inside-the-park home run after a throwing error in the bottom of the sixth. Princess Valencia, another senior, went 3-for-3 and scored the game-ending run on a fielder's choice by Savannah Merriman later in the frame.
Kennedy Sullivan threw complete games in both matchups with the Raiders. She fanned 19 in the first meeting, allowing only two hits, and followed that up with seven strikeouts, one hit and one walk in the championship round.
Sullivan received her second tournament MVP recognition in three years; she also earned that distinction as a sophomore during the Cardinals' state-title run in 2016.
The Cardinals won their third championship in five seasons, but this was their first undefeated run through the bracket. They defeated Apollo (8-2) on Thursday before getting past Boyle County (14-4 in six innings) and Christian County (5-0) on Friday to make it to the final day.
Sullivan picked up the win in all five games. She allowed 12 hits and finished with a 0.00 ERA through the three-day event. She helped her own cause in the finale with a two-run homer to make it 7-0 through two innings.
"We just stayed focused," Sullivan said. "We all knew what the goal was and we were this close, we just had to finish. We all just beared down and everybody kept the bats going."
Davis, Sullivan, Valencia and senior Grace Mullins were part of Scott County's 2014 and 2016 state-title teams. They've played with or against each other through most of their youth. Saturday was bittersweet, but it'll be remembered fondly.
"I'll be in a nursing home and I'll still talk about it, I swear," Valencia said with a grin. "I'll come in and be in my rocking chair and I'll say, 'When I was 18, I won a state championship, our third one, I'm awesome.'
"My roommate's gonna tell me to shut up but it'll be all right."