One big inning was enough Tuesday as third-ranked Scott County rallied to edge host Henry Clay 4-2 in the finals of the 42nd District softball tournament.
Scott County (27-8), the defending state champion, scored all of its runs in the fifth inning.
"I knew we would," said Princess Valencia, who contributed an RBI single. "We always come back. We're a good, fighting team."
Both teams advance to next week's 11th Region tourney at Paul Laurence Dunbar.
Henry Clay, which dropped regular-season games to the Cardinals by scores of 15-4 and 15-1, led 1-0 through four innings.
Two walks and a wild pitch gave Blue Devils (19-13) runners on second and third with no outs in the top of the first inning.
Emily Miller's one-out single through the left side scored a run. But, thanks in part to a failed attempt on a delayed double steal, that's all the Devils would score.
"That was the coach's fault. That's on me," Henry Clay Coach George Beard said. "I shouldn't have sent the runner. I did, and we lost a run there."
Meanwhile, right-hander Beth Ann Hamilton was in control in the circle, mowing down the Cardinals on three hits through four innings.
In the fifth, though, Scott County would bat around.
Two runs scored on an error. Valencia and Taylor Ricketts each delivered run-scoring singles.
"Coach told me he needed me to hit," Valencia said, "so I had to do my job there."
That's all the support that winning pitcher CeCe Wittry would need.
Henry Clay scored once in the seventh, on Sarah Parsons' single, for the final run of the game.
"That's probably the best game we've played all year. No doubt about it," Beard said. "Hamilton played well; she pitched well on the mound, kept us in the game. We made a couple of mistakes, but that happens."
That Henry Clay made the district finals a true battle came as no shock to Scott County Coach Jeff Portwood.
"We talked about it all week. We knew they were going to bring their 'A' game. We expected it," Portwood said. "Luckily, we battled back and did what was needed. It was a very close ballgame. They've come a long way since the last time we played them, too."
Scott County has been targeted by opponents throughout the season.
"We've had a target pretty much, and we've talked about that bull's-eye all year with winning the state championship last year, and coming back knowing that we've basically got most of our players back from last year's team," Portwood said. "So we knew it was going to be a tough year. Everywhere we went, everybody was going to want a little piece of it. So it's been a tough year but all in all it's good."
While Scott County has visions of repeating as state champion, Beard thinks his team can make some noise in the region tourney.
"Absolutely, I do," Beard said. "I think this team has the capability of going a long, long way. They have a goal, and right now our goal is still intact and we're going to try to reach it."
Scott Co. 4, Henry Clay 2
Henry Clay 100 000 1—2 6 2
Scott County 000 040 x—4 6 1
Hamilton, Cooper (6) and Miller; Sullivan, Wittry (5) and Ison. W—Wittry; L—Hamilton. 2B—Valencia, Mullins, SC; White, HC.
All-tournament team—Halie Fain, Princess Valencia, Taylor Ricketts and CeCe Wittry, Scott Co.; Beth Ann Hamilton, Emily Miller and Alex Cooper, Henry Clay; Shelby McLean and Emma Hamilton, Bryan Station.