Caldwell pitcher Jennifer Jackson hugs her father, Lady Tiger assistant coach Stanley Jackson, following a 1-0 win over Christian County in the 2000 regional championship game.
Several schools have had runs as the top softball program in the 2nd Region at different points in time.
Christian County, Hopkins County Central, Henderson County and Madisonville-North Hopkins have each taken turns at the top of the list.
At the turn of the century, the top softball program in the 2nd Region belonged to Caldwell County.
The Lady Tigers won regional championships in 1998, 2000 and 2002. Caldwell also played in the regional finals in 1996 and 1999.
Many Lady Tiger fans will tell you that they would have been in the final again in 1997 if not for a couple of calls that went the wrong way in a 1-0 semifinal loss to Henderson County.
Those Lady Tiger squads were all guided by legendary head coach Al Giordano. In 10 seasons as Caldwell softball coach, Giordano won 227 games, which is still 32nd on Kentucky’s all-time win list.
Giordano spent 45 years coaching at Caldwell County, serving as head coach of the football baseball, golf and softball programs at the school. He was an assistant basketball coach.
Giordano is enshrined in the KHSAA Hall of Fame and the State Softball Hall of Fame. He is also in the Caldwell County Football Hall of Fame.
A two-time All-American football player at Murray State University, Giordano is in the MSU Hall of Fame as well as the Ohio Valley Conference Hall of Fame.
Before even joining the football program at Murray State, Giordano spent time as a professional baseball player in the Dodgers organization.
We did say “legendary.”
Giordano’s softball teams at Caldwell were regularly ranked in the state’s top 25 — many times cracking the Top 10.
His three regional championships in five years were accomplished with three different pitchers.
Abby Scott was in the circle when the Lady Tigers not only won the 2nd Region championship in 1998, but made it all the way to the final round at the state tournament at Jeffersontown. Caldwell rolled past Hopkinsville and Union County before nipping perennial power Christian County 3-2 in the regional championship game in 1998. Caldwell hosted the region tourney that year at the City-County Park in Princeton.
Jennifer Jackson was unhittable in pitching Caldwell to the 2000 regional title in Henderson. She tossed back-to-back perfect games in wins over Hopkinsville and Madisonville-North Hopkins. However, she was “roughed up” for one hit in the Lady Tigers’ 1-0 triumph over Christian County in the championship game.
(Jackson is Caldwell’s winningest pitcher ever. Her 91 career victories are No. 24 on the state’s all-time list. Her 34 pitching wins in 1999 are ranked eighth in state history, according to KHSAA records. Her 55 career shutouts rank eighth as well. Jackson’s 23 shutouts in 2000 are also eighth in the state record book. Jackson went 63 straight innings in 2001 without allowing an earned run — the 10th longest streak in state history. Jackson ranks seventh in lowest career earned run average at 0.53 and 10th in lowest season ERA at 0.23 in 2000. Her eight no-hitters in 2000 are the ninth-most in a season.)
Caldwell was expected to contend in 1998 and 2000, but the 2002 Lady Tigers caught the 2nd Region by surprise. Lauren Van Hooser and the Lady Tigers had little trouble with Fort Campbell in the opening round, but then shocked favored Hopkins Central 1-0 in the semifinals. To some, that seemed to pave the way for a Henderson County championship, but the Lady Tigers turned back the Lady Colonels 3-1 in the title tilt in Hopkinsville.
Caldwell went 1-2 in its state tournament appearances in 2000 and 2002.
But the 1998 calendar year proved to be one of the most successful ever in Caldwell County High School sports.
Not only did the Lady Tiger softball team get all the way to the championship round at the state tournament, but the Tiger football team won the Class 2A state championship that fall.
Only Owensboro Catholic kept Caldwell from a pair of state championships six months apart.
Both of the Lady Tigers’ setbacks at the 1998 state softball tourney came to the Lady Aces.
Caldwell edged Greenwood 7-4 in its first game, then won a thriller from Conner 3-2 in the second round.
The Lady Tigers turned back Clark County 5-1 to reach the winner’s bracket final.
Owensboro Catholic gave Caldwell its first loss in the double-elimination event 2-0.
But the Lady Tigers won another nail-biter 1-0 over Louisville Assumption in the next game. Scott was not only the winning pitcher but drove in the game’s only run with a pinch-hit double as the Lady Tigers earned a rematch with the Lady Aces.
Caldwell needed to beat Owensboro Catholic twice for the state title. The Lady Tigers took a 2-0 lead early against Owensboro Catholic, but the Lady Aces eventually escaped with a 3-2 win to keep Caldwell from getting its hands on the state championship trophy.
Caldwell’s three regional titles in five years were impressive. Proving just how difficult it is to even get to the finals, though — it would be 16 years after the Lady Tigers’ 2002 championship before Caldwell got back to the regional title tilt.
The Lady Tigers reached that game in 2018 and took heavily-favored Christian County to extra innings before falling 5-3 in nine innings.
But Caldwell will always have its turn-of-the-century run, when it was at the top of a stacked 2nd Region field.