MUSTANG PRIDE

It was Monday at Walmart on Hinkleville Road when, in a random but fortuitous moment, an editorial board member talked baseball with a fellow shopper.

The chat was first about the Paducah Chiefs, the Ohio Valley League team that plays each summer at Brooks Stadium. Then it turned to the McCracken County Mustangs, the high school team then less than a day removed from finishing as state runners-up in Lexington.

At this, the shopper, a stranger until that moment, grinned ear-to-ear, his voice filled with Mustang pride as he talked about the squad that went 33-8 overall and came within a few runs of winning the state title.

The stranger, it turns out, has a son on the team.

He said the players were disappointed, and that feeling hadn't yet given way to appreciation for an entirely impressive season.

The editorial board member pointed out these Mustangs were not only impressive but historic -- they finished higher than any First Region team since 1979, their feats not only a positive reflection of their skills and hard work but also a compliment to their school and community.

The father nodded in agreement. There were smiles and a hand shake as he and the editorial board member parted, once strangers but no more, a bond formed over local pride and the great American pastime.

That interaction sums up our feelings about McCracken County's postseason run.

The Mustangs didn't bring home the championship trophy, but such details tend to matter less over time, overshadowed by memories of exciting games if you were lucky enough to see them in person; radio broadcasts if you weren't; and for casual observers, captivating game recaps and photos in the local newspaper.

What we will remember about McCracken's championship chase were narrow Second District and First Region wins over crosstown rival Paducah Tilghman; the pride of watching from afar as players and coaches marched on greatness; and an incredible June 9 photo of the team celebrating a walk-off state semifinal win.

"CHAMPIONSHIP BOUND," read a bold headline above the photo of players showing the raw emotion so profound in sports.

We'll also remember a quote from McCracken coach Geno Miller following the title game loss. His words exemplified leadership, and we hope were a salve for hurting players.

"You can always, when you come up on the short end, go back and try to find something different (to do)," Miller told The Sun. "But you know, at the end of the day, I can't say how proud I am of this group of kids.

"We didn't come here to play for second. It hurts. But at the end of the day, what a ride they've been on."

Please join us in congratulating the McCracken County Mustangs on an outstanding season.

We hope time and perspective will allow them to someday appreciate what they accomplished as much as we do today.

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