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Tilghman reaches finals with walk-off victory

By James D. Hornejhorne@paducahsun.com

Chantell Driver came up with the big hit at the right time for Paducah Tilghman and broke open a 1-1 game.

The junior catcher led off the bottom of the seventh with a double that eventually led to courtesy runner Mackenize Ulmer's game-winning score from second Monday night. She scored on a throwing error by the pitcher to first on a ball put into play by center fielder Stephanie Sexton in the Lady Blue Tornado's 2-1 walk-off victory over St. Mary in the first round of the Second District Tournament.

"We had a job we had to do out here," said Driver, who stretched a sure single into the two-bagger. "We were hyped before the game and we had to come out and do something. It was nerve racking going up there, because I didn't do too well with my first two at bats. But I'm a part of this team and we all have a job to do. So I got up and did what I had to do to stretch my hit to a double. Then freshman Mackenize Ulmer came in there and did her job. So we did all together and we're slowly making changes."

The win moves second-seeded Paducah Tilghman (23-5) onto the Second District Tournament championship game on Wednesday night against top-ranked and district No. 1 seed McCracken County (31-5) at 7 p.m. at Sheppard Field.

More important is the win puts the Lady Blue Tornado into next week's First Region Tournament for the first time in program history.

"Getting into the region tournament has been like the Promised Land for Tilghman," said second-year coach Carl Johnson. "People stood in line to play Tilghman in softball. Now we're going to have to do like McCracken probably and travel to play ballgames. We're going to have to go to Illinois and travel farther than Louisville and Lexington just to play now. We're proud of our accomplishments."

St. Mary sees its season end with a 7-15 overall record.

Karlee Humphrey came away with the win for Paducah Tilghman and allowed eight hits and one earned run while striking out one.

Rachel Denkins took the loss for St. Mary. Denkins â “ who threw a one-hitter through the first five innings â “ ended up giving up two runs, only one was earned, and five hits. She struck out three.

"It was a great night for us," St. Mary coach Russ Carter said. "I love this team and I love how they competed. They never gave up. We're playing with seventh graders in the infield and had a bunch of older girls who accepted them and guided them, and that's what being a team is about. I couldn't be more happy."

The Lady Vikings took a 1-0 advantage with their run in the top of the sixth. Denkins led off with a single and, after getting to third on a ground out and a passed ball, scored on Kelly Word's bloop base hit to left.

Tilghman tied it up at 1-all in the bottom of the sixth when Briea Mayes, who led the inning off with a single, scored from third on a passed ball with two outs.

Driver then stepped up in the bottom of the seventh, hit her double and then was replaced by Ulmer.

Ulmer was initially just thinking about getting to third when Sexton put the ball into play and then had to turn on the jets to score the game winner.

"This feeling is just crazy," Ulmer said. "You work all season and practice and prepare for this moment. And then when it's you as a person that has the chance to make your team win and go on and go forward, the feeling is unexplainable. It's crazy. It's a great feeling."

St. Mary  000 001 0 1 8 1

Paducah Tilghman 000 001 1 2 5 0

STM: Denkins and Lurtz; PT: Humphrey and Driver.

WP: Humphrey. LP: Denkins

2B: STM - Lurtz. PT - Driver. 3B: none. HR: none. Top hitters: STM - Lurtz 1-4; Denkins 2-3, run; M. Durbin 3-3. PT - Myers 2-3; Driver 1-3; Mayes 1-2, run.

Call James D. Horne, a Sun sports writer, at 270-575-8661 or follow on Twitter @psunsports.

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