While regarded as the consensus No. 1 softball team in Kentucky for the entire season, Scott County flew under the national radar, at least compared to its lofty rankings last year.
That all ended with the Lady Cards’ domination of the KHSAA state tournament in Owensboro this past weekend.
When MaxPreps unveiled its new national lists Tuesday, SC soared to No.. 7 in both the organization’s “Xcellent 25” and its computer rankings.
Scott County (38-2) was No. 12 in the computer assessment and unranked in the other column entering the state playoffs. Based largely on its previously undefeated record, East Carter stood at No. 1 in the Xcellent 25 prior to the tournament.
Led by tournament most valuable player Kennedy Sullivan, SC was peerless in the sweltering conditions at Jack F. Fisher Park.
The Lady Cards rolled through Apollo, Boyle County and Christian County by a combined margin of 27-6 in Thursday and Friday’s early rounds.
That set up one of the classic semifinal showdowns in state tournament history. Sullivan threw a two-hitter with 18 strikeouts while Princess Valencia banged out three hits, including the game-winner, in a 2-1, 13-inning victory over Warren East.
After waiting out numerous heat and wind delays, as well as a lengthy consolation bracket final between Warren East and Butler, SC cruised to a 10-0 win over Warren East in the title game.
“I just put it on how well we play together as a team,” Sullivan said. “We’ve been playing together since literally we were babies. I’ve grown up playing either with or against pretty much everyone on this team, and we have just the best chemistry.”
Madison High School of Vienna, Virginia, is ranked No. 1 in the Xcellent 25, followed by Neshoba Central of Philadelphia, Mississippi, San Marcos and Norco of California, Hoover of Clendenin, West Virginia, and Tualatin (Oregon) just ahead of Scott County.
Norco tops the computer rankings, trailed by Huntingtown, Maryland, Ouachita Parish of Monroe, Louisiana, New Palestine (Indiana), Madison and San Marcos. SC rounds out the top 10 in front of Plano, Texas, Coral Springs Charter of Florida, and Jackson High of Mill Creek, Washington.
Earlier this season, SC defeated Sparkman of Harvest, Alabama, which is No. 13 in the computer rankings.
Scott County reached the top five during the 2017 regular season, which ended with a loss in the region championship game.
The Lady Cards previously won state titles in 2014 and 2016. Three championships tie them for second-most in state history.
While the rest of the state is probably eager to see SC’s 10 seniors graduate, shortstop Hannah Davis cautioned everyone that the Lady Cards will remain among the nation’s elite.
“Our program is going to be so much better,” Davis said. “We’re going be so good every year, and I’m just so excited to see how they do and show who we are next year.”
All-star games up next
Four of Scott County’s seniors aren’t quite finished representing the Lady Cards on the diamond.
Sullivan, Valencia, Meryn Livingston and Emily Jasper are scheduled to participate in the East/West All-Star Series at Eastern Kentucky University this Saturday and Sunday. The event will begin practice and a pizza party on Friday evening, following by a series of games involving the state’s junior and senior all-star games throughout the weekend.
The SC players will be part of the East Senior squad. They will take on the East Juniors at 9 a.m. Saturday, the West Juniors at 3:30 p.m. Saturday, and the West Seniors at 10 a.m. Sunday. Scott County’s Jeff Portwood will be one of three coaches for the East Senior team.
Kal Oakes can be reached via email at email@example.com.