How far the Scott County softball team advances in its quest to repeat as KHSAA champion and win its fourth title this decade remains to be seen.
It is hard to imagine any team better prepared to run that gauntlet than the Lady Cards, however.
A regular season that saw SC duck nobody, even if it would have been tempting to so after graduating 10 players to the college game, concluded with a hard-earned split Saturday in a triangle tournament against two top-five opponents.
Scott County pushed undefeated No. 1 Male to the brink before giving up two runs in the sixth inning of a 4-2 loss.
After watching No. 4 Christian County throw a similar scare into the host team, the Lady Cards capped the sweltering afternoon with an 8-5 victory over the Lady Colonels.
Carly Oliver, who homered in a win over Christian County at last year’s state tournament, was one of three repeat hitters for Scott County (18-10). Ashley Adkins and Katelyn Byrd each matched Oliver with a 2-for-3 showing in the nightcap.
Nani Valencis scattered seven hits, struck out four and walked four against a stout Christian County (26-8) lineup. Emmy Blane and Tyler Shemwell belted home runs for the Lady Colonels.
Shemwell’s lead-off blast in the bottom of the fourth was the first explosion in what had been a pitchers’ duel between Valencia and Hannah Sumner to that point.
SC retaliated with four in the fifth and three more in the sixth, building enough of a cushion to stave off a late CC rally.
Adkins, Bianca Ward and Byrd all singled to load the bases with one out in the fifth. Sam Sims grounded into a fielder’s choice to supply the tying run.
The Lady Cards weren’t finished. After courtesy runner Camryn Lookadoo scampered home to supply the go-ahead tally on a passed ball, Oliver beat out an infield single to extend the threat.
Sims scored on another of Christian County’s five errors before Valencia dropped a sinking line drive into center field for an additional run.
Valencia struck out the first two Lady Colonels in the bottom of the inning to maintain the momentum, then prevented any damage from Pickle Winkler’s single by getting Blane with a pop-up to Oliver at shortstop.
Adkins walked with one out in the sixth prior to consecutive errors that put Alyssa Woolums and Ward aboard. Byrd knocked one home with a single to left. Sam Sims plated the other two with her hit to center for a 7-1 advantage.
Tyler Shemwell’s single, a pair of walks and SC’s lone error of the game set up RBI sacrifice flies by Taylor Shemwell and Tenley Gilbert in the Christian County sixth.
Scott County scored a seventh-inning insurance run in similar fashion. Madison Scott and Adkins singled in front of a fly out by Woolums, deep enough for Scott to tag and score.
Winkler singled and Blane belted a two-run bomb promptly to create some anxious moments in Christian County’s final raps. Valencia buckled down and retired the next three to seal it.
SC belted out 10 hits to CC’s seven in the contest. Sumner struck out three in her six-inning stint.
Male is 31-0 while outscoring opponents 284-37 this season, but SC charged to a 2-1 lead in the top of the third and held it until the Lady Bulldogs pulled even in the bottom of the fifth.
Passed balls provided two more runs after a lead-off double by Morgan Zuege and a walk by Elizabeth Zampe in the sixth.
Madison McCoy and Jaelyn Sanders each had two hits for Male, which was otherwise held in check by Katlyn Mullins. The Scott County junior struck out seven, walked two and allowed six hits.
hit. Sanders and Kelsie Houchens combined for 15 Male strikeouts.
Sanders smacked a first-pitch home run with one out in the bottom of the second to out Male in front.
Scott County scratched out two for its reply in the third. Kaylie Wise was hit by a pitch to open the inning. She advanced on a sacrifice bunt by Byrd and Sims’ bunt single. The latter lured an errant throw that allowed Wise to score.
Sims scooted all the way to third and ultimately scored on a passed ball.
McCoy’s single and a two-out triple by Davis tied the game in the fifth.
The two-run margin matched Male’s smallest margin of victory this season until a 3-2 survival of Christian County in the next game.
SC played 12 of its 28 regular season games against teams ranked in the top 25 of the coaches’ poll. The Lady Cards, currently ranked No. 14, beat three teams in the top 10: Boyle, Woodford and Christian counties.
They opened the playoffs Monday night with a 42nd District semifinal against Henry Clay. The championship game is scheduled for 6 p.m. Wednesday at Bryan Station.
Kal Oakes can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.