Georgetown felt like the capital of Kentucky high school softball Monday evening.
And somewhere among the 289 total pitches, countless diving and running catches, blistering line drives, heads-up base running and heroic hits, the rest of that state surely thanked its lucky stars that our city now feeds into two teams instead of one.
No. 18 Scott County and No. 6 Great Crossing demonstrated over and over again to their own bipartisan, overflow crowd why they're both legitimate threats to win the 11th Region and beyond.
Rankings aside, the Cardinals captured the de facto city title for the second consecutive spring, scratching out a run in the top of the seventh inning to rise above the Warhawks, 5-4.
“This place was packed. It was definitely a game to remember for a long time,” Scott County sophomore and winning pitcher Ada Little said. “I loved all the fans, and I think it was amazing for the game.”
Karsyn Preston, who took away multiple Great Crossing runs with her acrobatics at second base, scored Scott County's winning tally after drawing the first of three consecutive walks with one out in the seventh.
“This game means so much,” said Preston, who also provided one of the Cardinals' four hits. “They're not even in our district, and it means 10 times more than anyone in our district. (I was) just trying to make some kind of effort, because it's big.”
Scott County, which saw early leads of 3-0 and 4-1 slip away, went back in front when Taylor Reid batted a slow, spinning ball between Great Crossing pitcher Brenna Parker and Emma Sutton at first base.
Preston beat a desperation throw home with ease.
“That's all we needed with the bases loaded, something in play. Make them make a play,” SC coach Mike Wagoner said. “It was a dribbler that just went in the right direction for us at the right time. Obviously you can't make anything happen if you don't put the bat on the ball.”
Living on the edge as both pitchers did in a high-stress environment, Parker summoned her fifth and sixth strikeouts to escape the fracas.
It afforded Great Crossing one more golden opportunity with the most dangerous section of its lineup waiting in the wings.
Camryn Lookadoo walked with one out and stole second. Ryann Livingston dropped a textbook bunt down the third base line and was called out by an eyelash when Preston raced over to cover Delaney Vaughn's throw.
SC intentionally walked Delani Sullivan and elected to take its chances with Kendall Meade. GC's junior catcher fouled off five consecutive deliveries from Little before a line drive to Aubrey Wigginton in right field to close the book on a classic.
“A plus for us tonight, that was seven innings of fight. They're disappointed they didn't win, but they're not disappointed because they know what they just were part of,” GC coach Heath Sutton said. “That was a fun game. I'm proud of them. That was probably the first game all year we fought for seven innings, so that right there, seeing that, learning that, that's what's gonna come in handy later.”
One inning earlier, Great Crossing (24-4) saw its best chance to break open a battle that had been tied at four since the bottom of the third evaporate in a cloud of dust around Preston.
Sullivan, whose two-run, inside-the-park home run to the left field corner pulled GC even during the early slugfest, led off with a single in the same direction. Meade followed with another hit.
Little buckled down and struck out Ashtyn Holbrook prior to a sacrifice bunt by Sutton. Aubrey Green then walked to load the bases for Ellie Hoover, who won the JV preliminary with a walk-off home run.
This time she hit a screaming, low shot that was ticketed to right field. Preston attacked it belly-first, rose and fired to Reid at first to retire the side in jaw-dropping fashion.
“Karsyn played her heart out,” Little said. “You can always trust Karsyn to lay out on the ground for anything. She's gonna give you everything. She practices nonstop. I have a lot of trust in her on that side. I don't expect anything less from her.”
Both pitchers allowed only four hits. Little struck out 10 to offset six walks. Parker issued eight free passes.
There were no base runners for either team between Preston's two-out single in the SC fourth and Sullivan's knock in the GC sixth.
SC (15-8) started with a stunning three-run outburst in the top of the first that has proven enough cushion for Little in an entire night against most opponents.
After the only error of the game for either team put Wigginton aboard to lead off, Lauren Jones hit a laser to right center for an RBI double.
Little walked with one out to set up Vaughn's two-run two-bagger down the left field line.
“Delaney had a huge hit there that got us two runs. This is when we need her,” Wagoner said. “I told her a few weeks ago when she was down about it, I'd much rather have you hitting at the end of the season than hitting now and falling off. She's really coming up big in her senior year and making that push toward the end of the season. I'm proud of her.”
Beth McIntyre tacked on a third hit before Great Crossing caught Vaughn between third and home after a pitch in the dirt to stop the bleeding.
GC's two University of Kentucky signees got one back for the Warhawks. Lookadoo led off with a walk, stole second, took third on a passed ball and scored on Sullivan's ground out.
“We had a game plan going up to the plate, and we stuck with it,” Sutton said of his team's comeback. “It forced (Little) to bring the ball down kind of in our zone instead of us chasing hers.”
Scott County reclaimed its three-run lead in the second when Makiah Jackson walked, raced all the way to third on a sacrifice bunt by Jalynn Blair and scored on a wild pitch.
The grind-it-out theme continued with Great Crossing's second-inning response, Holbrook walked and ultimately scored on a wild pitch to make it 4-2.
Preston (who else?) snagged a line drive by Riley McCallister about six inches off the dirt to strand two Warhawk runners in that chapter.
After Parker worked around a pair of two-out walks in the SC third thanks to Livingston's brilliant scoop of a shot off Lookadoo's glove, GC's stars aligned once again.
Lookadoo launched a double in front of Sullivan's shot down the line, which eluded a diving attempt and rolled to the fence while her speed exacted the toll.
“I think in the beginning we started to get too comfortable, and by the fifth inning we started to think, OK, we need to come back. We need to get some insurance,” Little said. “We followed through with our plan and trusted each other enough to do it.”
Jackson saved Little by crashing against the center field fence to take away extra bases from Holbrook and close out the third inning.
“Ada, she's a rock star. We all know that,” Preston said. “If she's pitching it to where they're hitting it in the park, we're just trying to do anything that we can to have the lock-down defense.”
SC loaded the bases in the fourth with two out on commotion by Wigginton (hit by a pitch on the helmet), Jones (walk) and Preston (single).
Parker coaxed Little into a first-pitch pop-up to Lookadoo at shortstop, and the game lapsed into a lengthy stretch without either team sniffing the basepaths.
“Scott County, Great Crossing, we're blessed here,” Wagoner said, “We're blessed, and what a game.”
The Cardinals are a rare bird, indeed: Most ranked teams who beat the Warhawks a year ago have been the victim of revenge this season. And Great Crossing was coming off a win in a similar atmosphere that ended Ballard’s state-record 61-game winning streak only four nights earlier.
“That’s probably I’d say the biggest win by far, even over our district games,” Little said. “We wanted to this for DV (Vaughn, the team’s only senior). She told us we had to have a lot of heart, and I think we all did.”