MURRAY - There's nothing a pitcher likes more than going to the mound with a considerable lead at her back.
McCracken County's Audrey Dodd found herself in that situation thanks to a Lady Mustangs' first inning that was as steady as the rain that fell on Lady Laker Field during their First Region Softball Tournament semifinal game Tuesday night against Ballard Memorial.
Top-ranked McCracken County plated eight runs in the bottom of the first inning and used those to cruise past the Lady Bombers 15-0 in five innings.
"It's a big relief to have that lead, especially since I struggled a lot in the first inning," said Dodd, who threw a one-hitter and struck out nine. "I didn't want to let one score in that first inning, but I knew if i did my team would have my back and score some runs for me. You can always count on them, because they are so consistent with scoring runs."
The Lady Mustangs (34-5), champions of the Fourth District, take their spot in tonight's First Region Softball Tournament championship game and will face Third District champion and 25-11 Graves County at 6 p.m. at Lady Laker Field.
"We haven't played them in a long time," McCracken County coach Tony Hayden said. "They hit the ball as well as anyone in our region and have all year long. Casey Wade throws the ball hard and moves the ball up and down. The biggest problem is we haven't played them in the last three years and when you haven't played teams that are that good you never know what's going to happen the next time you see them.
"And with all the stuff that's happened across the state, we're not safe by any stretch of the imagination. We're going to have to play the best game we can play, because they are going to, too. So we're looking forward to it."
Rebekah Hogancamp took the loss for the Lady Bombers, who won the All "A" Classic First Region championship this year.
"The first inning was the difference," Ballard Memorial coach Terry Amis said. "We're still young and our kids were nervous about playing McCracken County, and they are an excellent team. They hit one through nine and the kids behind them can hit. But if we could have scored in the first inning, I think it would have relaxed us more. Not saying we would have won, because they are an excellent team. They are very capable of winning a state championship."
After the eight runs in the first, McCracken County added four in the second, two in the third and one in the fourth.
Dodd let Ballard Memorial (13-18) load the bases in the first, but struck out the last two batters of the inning to stave off the charge. She allowed just two base runners after that.
Ballard Memorial 000 00 0 1 3
McCracken County 842 1x 15 13 1
MC: Dodd and R. Ridolfi; BM: Hogancamp and Newton
WP: Dodd. LP: Hogancamp.
2B: MC - Wooten, Vick, Telfair (2). BM - Hogancamp. 3B: none. HR: none. Top hitters: MC - Henson 1-2, run; H. Ridolfi 2-2, 2 runs, 2 RBIs; Telfair 2-2, 4 RBIs. BM - Hogancamp 1-3.