OWENSBORO — Keely Barnes' walk-off RBI double in the eighth inning Saturday gave McCracken County a storybook finish to a dream season.
Barnes' hit scored Bailey Vick, who had reached on a two-out single, to give the Mustangs a 2-1 victory over Male in the finals of the Worth/KHSAA State Softball Tournament at Jack C. Fisher Park.
The win was sweet redemption after McCracken fell to Scott County in the finals of last year's tournament.
"It was great," Barnes said. "I'm so happy that we finally got it. We've trained and we've worked so hard all year for this, and it's finally come. Oh, I'm just so happy for me and my teammates."
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McCracken, with a No. 1 ranking serving as a bull's-eye on its back, went 5-0 over three days and finished the season with a 37-3 mark.
So was it more excitement or relief when the game was finally decided?
"When she hit that ball, it was excitement," Coach Tony Hayden said. "But when it's all said and done, it's a relief. It's a big relief, especially with the amount of work you do from August to August. It don't get no better than this no matter how many times you do it."
In a pitching duel that matched righthanders Audrey Dodd of McCracken and Hannah Poynter of Male, the teams were scoreless through five innings.
Male (38-9), which came out of the loser's bracket, took a 1-0 lead in the sixth.
Amanda McIver's squeeze bunt scored Taylor Childress, who had singled and advanced to third on Alyssa Case's double.
But the Bulldogs made two errors in the bottom of the seventh to help McCracken tie the game.
Barnes reached on a one-out error, took second on Kelsee Henson's base hit and scored on a two-out throwing error.
Not that McCracken was about to quit.
"I don't think quit is in our vocabulary," Barnes said. "We just keep playing and playing."
The Mustangs left the bases full in the sixth and seventh innings, stranding 12 overall.
But Barnes came through in the eighth, driving the ball to the right-field fence.
"We finally got one big hit with somebody on base, like we've been doing all year long," Hayden said.
It was a tough loss for Poynter, who scattered eight hits, struck out two and issued three intentional walks.
Tourney MVP Dodd was just enough better on this day, though. She gave up six hits, struck out 12 and did not walk a batter.
"It means the world to us," Dodd said. "We worked our butts off all year, and all we wanted was to win a state championship. So coming out here, it didn't come as easy as we thought it would go, but a state championship is a state championship and we're happy."
Male Coach Josh Bloomer took the loss like a champion.
"It was just so much fun today. I had a great time, and congratulations to McCracken," Bloomer said. "... I'm just going to tell them 'don't cry because it's over, smile because it happened.' It was awesome. It was an awesome experience."
Winner's bracket finals
McCracken Co. 6, Ashland Blazer 0: Dodd tossed a two-hitter, with 13 strikeouts and no walks.
The Lady Mustangs gave Dodd all the support she would need by scoring a pair of first-inning runs. Madeline Wooten had an RBI double and Hannah Ridolfi's sacrifice fly scored the second run.
McCracken added a run in the second, two in the third and another in the sixth.
The Kittens' only hits were a second-inning single by Hayley Kilburn and a seventh-inning base hit by Megan Hensley. Between those hits, Dodd retired 16 in a row.
Male 6, Anderson Co. 4 (8): Dani Walls hit a two-run walkoff homer to put Male into the loser's bracket finals.
Anderson (34-10) scored three runs in the top of the seventh to take a 4-3 lead, only to see the Bulldogs come back with a run in the bottom of the inning.
Alissa Vest drove in a pair of runs for the Lady Cats, while Mia Aldridge had two of Anderson's eight hits.
Male 9, Ashland Blazer 2: The Bulldogs took a 1-0 lead in the first inning, then blew the game open with a six-run fourth.
Winning pitcher Olivia Suski kick-started the big inning with a two-run homer.
Ashland (32-9) averted a shutout by putting up two runs in the seventh, fueled by Kilburn's leadoff home run. Jordan Meade added a run-scoring single.
Kilburn finished with three of the Kittens' six hits.
mccracken co. 6, ashland blazer 0
McCracken Co. 212 001 0—6 10 0
Ashland Blazer 000 000 0—0 2 4
Dodd and R.Ridolfi, Waldon; Hensley and Campbell. W—Dodd. L—Hensley. 2B—MC: Vick, Wooten, H.Ridolfi, Harris.
Records—McCracken Co. 36-3, Ashland Blazer 32-8.
male 6, anderson co. 4 (8)
Anderson Co. 000 001 30—4 8 1
Male 200 010 12—6 8 1
Aldridge and Curry; Poynter, Suski (8) and Walls. W—Poynter. L—Aldridge. 2B—AC: Currens, A.Beasley. HR—AC: Curry; M: McIver, Walls.
Records—Male 37-8, Anderson Co. 34-10.
male 9, ashland blazer 2
Male 100 602 0—9 7 3
Ashland Blazer 000 000 2—2 6 2
Suski and Walls, Elzey; Murphy and Campbell, Kilburn. W—Suski. L—Murphy. 2B—AB: Kilburn. 3B—M: Childress. HR—M: Suski; AB: Kilburn.
Records—Male 38-8, Ashland Blazer 32-9.
mccracke n co. 2, male 1 (8)
Male 000 001 00—1 6 4
McCracken Co. 000 000 11—2 8 1
Poynter and Walls; Dodd and R.Ridolfi. W—Dodd. L—Poynter. W—Dodd. L—Poynter. 2B—M: Case, Suski; McC: Barnes, H.Ridolfi.
Records—McCracken Co. 37-3, Male 38-9.
All-tournament team—Sarah Rainwater, East Jessamine; Mikayla Vires, North Laurel; Leigh Ellen Thomas, Mercy; Peyton Calvert, Warren East; Bailey Curry and Mia Aldridge, Anderson Co.; Megan Hensley and Hayley Kilburn, Ashland Blazer; Taylor Childress, Amanda McIver and Hannah Poynter, Male; Kelsee Henson, Hannah Ridolfi and Audrey Dodd, McCracken Co.
Most Outstanding Player—Dodd. National Guard Best & Brightest Award—Dani Walls, Male. Forcht Bank All-Around Excellence Award—Bailey Vick, McCracken Co.