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  • | The Enquirer

    'We finally came through.' Cooper wins 33rd District softball title in instant classic

    By Brendan Connelly, Cincinnati Enquirer,


    Cooper senior Ava Scott is built for big moments. However, her team-leading .495 average, 41 runs scored, 23 stolen bases and 10 doubles don't quite tell the story of her season.

    As the Jaguars' leadoff hitter, she's trusted to get on base for her teammates and capitalize in clutch situations. Scott delivered two more of those moments in Monday's 33rd District tournament championship.

    "I would take Ava up in a clutch situation any time possible," Cooper head coach Rusty Scott said.

    Scott had as much trouble as her teammates figuring out Conner pitcher Mollie Sharp, who held the Jaguars hitless through 6 2/3 innings. But she knew exactly what to do when she came up to bat with two runners on and her team down 3-0 in the bottom of the eighth inning.

    "We came in with the same energy as yesterday. No matter what, we just need to keep our energy up and be there for each other," Ava Scott said.

    She laced a triple to center field, scoring Emory Sullivan and Alivia Scott to give the Jaguars a chance. Grace Cline followed with a sacrifice ground out to tie the game at three and send it to the ninth inning.

    The Cougars got on the board first when catcher Averie Lightner scored on a fielder's choice in the eighth inning. Ciarra Morgan followed with a two-run double to give Conner a 3-0 lead and chase Cooper starter Lily Spraker.

    While Sharp was untouchable in the circle for the majority of the game, equal credit is due to Spraker. The sophomore averages just over one strikeout per game, but the weak contact she induces combined with the Jaguars' stellar defense has led them to their first-ever district championship. Rusty Scott, in his fifth season as head coach, said this team is the best defensive team he's coached.

    "It's a couple of different pitches and I think it's my defense. My defense knows what to do and when to do it and they pull through when we need it most," Spraker said.

    After Spraker was pulled in the top of the eighth, freshman Desiree Mack came in with runners on first and second. She got a strikeout and a flyout to limit the damage. Despite giving up a run in the top of the ninth, Cooper's girls knew they could come back a second time. The Jaguars had a home crowd behind them.

    Kaitlyn Furnish hit a one-out single and came around to score on Maddie Childress's triple that snuck inside the left-field line. After Ainsley Scroggie and Sullivan were intentionally walked, Alivia Scott struck out.

    Ava Scott walked to the plate with two outs, bases loaded and a chance to win Cooper's first district championship.

    The left-hander blooped a single the opposite way to score Sullivan and ensure the Jaguars another home game. They'll host a district runner-up on Sunday in the first round of the Ninth Region tournament.

    "It's so exciting because we've been in this position for so many years and we've finished second in the district for so many years, and we finally came through when no one expected it either," Ava Scott said.

    It's been a sterling year for the Jaguars across the board. They've won district titles in girls soccer, girls and boys basketball and now softball. They've won regional titles in football and boys cross country. Senior diver Peytton Moore won her third state championship. Their most recent district crown might mean the most.

    "It feels great to do it here. We haven't hosted (a district tournament) ‒ our year to host was COVID, so we lost that year and then, finally, we get to host. It worked out well. I told (athletic director Randy) Borchers, 'Hey, that's all we need to do, just host one and we'll get it for you.'" Rusty Scott said.

    Cooper is now 87-49 since the start of the 2021 season. It has appeared in every district championship game since 2021 but finally conquered what many call the toughest district in Northern Kentucky.

    For Conner, it's a third heartbreak this season at the paws of the Jaguars. Cooper won a 4-3 game on April 15 and a 2-1 eight-inning affair just nine days later. A fourth matchup may come in the regional tournament.

    But for now, Cooper reigns supreme in the 33rd District.

    This article originally appeared on Cincinnati Enquirer: 'We finally came through.' Cooper wins 33rd District softball title in instant classic

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