Top-ranked McCracken County's goal has been long established and the Lady Mustangs took their first step to a hopeful state championship with their 12-2, five-inning victory over Paducah Tilghman in the Second District Softball Tournament championship game Wednesday night at Sheppard Field.
No. 1 McCracken County, as ranked by the Kentucky Softball Coaches Association, benefited from three Lady Blue Tornado errors in the bottom of the fifth that led to seven runs, including a game-winning, one-out RBI double by Tori Humphrey that scored Kelsee Henson from second.
"This is definitely step one," McCracken County coach Tony Hayden said. "We knew they would come with a game plan where we would have to play our best to win. They helped us out early in the first two innings when we got a few balls that dropped away from them and helped us score those early runs. Jenny (Chapman) didn't have her best stuff tonight and they got on her in the fourth. We wanted to take her her out, but she wanted to stay in and change her pitching motion, and it all worked out in the end because we had our big fifth inning."
The Lady Mustangs (32-5) scored two runs in the bottom of the first and third innings, one in the bottom of the fourth and the final seven in the bottom of the fifth.
Paducah Tilghman (23-6) plated its two runs in the top of the fourth, but was hurt by five errors.
Both teams move on to the First Region Softball Tournament that starts Monday at Calloway County. The drawing for both the First Region softball and baseball tournaments will be held today at 1 at the Dinner Bell Restaurant in Mayfield.
"We told them that we couldn't afford to make any mistakes," said Tilghman coach Carl Johnson, who's guided Tilghman to its first-ever region appearance. "But we made a bunch of errors in the fifth inning and the wheels fell off the wagon.
Chapman recorded the win for the Lady Mustangs and put up a line of five strikeouts, five hits allowed and was charged with one earned run.
Kayla Slagle took the loss for Tilghman. She allowed 13 hits and seven earned runs, while striking out three.
"This is a big step for us," Chapman said. "It feels good to win. We're excited about going to play in region."
Tilghman cut McCracken County's lead to 4-2 with its two runs in the bottom of the fourth on Emily Robertson's run-scoring single and Chantell Driver's RBI flyout to center.
The Lady Mustangs upped the margin to 5-2 in the bottom of the fifth on Henson's RBI single that plated Bailey Vick.
Things broke down for Tilghman in the bottom of the fifth when with no outs McCracken County's Rachel Ridolfi and Kalli Harris both scored thanks to a throwing error by the first baseman and Lexie Baer came home on a throwing error by the third baseman and made it 8-2.
The Lady Mustangs added the four final runs starting with Jacqueline Roof's RBI single that scored Vick. Roof eventually scored on an error in left that upped the lead to 10-2.
Henson then smacked a base hit that scored Barnes and after an out, Humphrey brought Nelson home with the game-ending double.
"It feel pretty good to win," Nelson said. "We came out here to win and we did what we were supposed to do."
All-Second District Team
Jacqueline Roof, McCracken County
Keely Barnes, McCracken County
Kelsee Henson, McCracken County
Audrey Dodd, McCracken County
Neely Quint, McCracken County
Jenny Chapman, McCracken County
Karlee Humphrey, Paducah Tilghman
Mallory Myers, Paducah Tilghman
Shaelyn Tyler, Paducah Tilghman
Darby Moffatt, Paducah Tilghman
Rachel Denkin, St. Mary
Hanna Lurtz, St. Mary
Paducah Tilghman 000 20 2 5 5
McCracken County 202 17 12 13 2
PT: Slagle and Humphrey; MC: Champan and R. Ridolfi.
WP: Chapman LP: Slagle
2B: MC - Humphrey. 3B: none. HR: none. Top hitters: PT - Humphrey 1-2, run; Moffatt 1-3, run; Robertson 1-2, RBI. MC - Roof 1-4, run, RBI; Barnes 2-3, 2 runs; Nelson 3-4, 2 runs, 2 RBIs; H. Ridolfi 1-3, 2 RBIs; Humphrey 2-4, run; Harris 2-2, run, RBI; Vick 2-2, 2 runs.
Call James D. Horne, a Sun sports writer, at 270-575-8661 or follow on Twitter @psunsports.