By ZACK KLEMME
FLATWOODS Russell senior pitcher Mallory Powell suggested occasional momentary lapses happen because of her team’s overall youth.
She did her best to make up for them against Lewis County on Tuesday, though, pitching out of trouble in the first three innings and then mowing down the Lady Lions late to finish off a one-hitter and lock up a 7-0 Lady Devils victory.
“We’re a really young team, and that just builds our confidence more and more,” Powell said of Russell’s 6-1 start to the season and five straight wins. “We lose focus a lot, but we just bring it back in. The first few innings are always rough, but we just brought it back.”
Lewis County got runners into scoring position in its first three innings, but couldn’t capitalize. Powell then retired the final 14 Lady Lions batters of the evening, finishing with 10 strikeouts, a walk and a hit batter.
“We’ve gotta get better at knowing when it’s important to hit, hitting under pressure,” Lewis County coach Kayla Lykins said.
Russell did that just fine. Sophomore Emma Ison was 2-for-3 with two doubles, drove in two runs and scored twice, sophomore Cassie Fultz was 2-for-3, and freshman Annalee Miller was 2-for-3 and scored two runs in the nine-hole.
“We’re just trying to figure out what batting lineup works and what doesn’t,” Lady Devils coach Carol Stevens said. “The kids are doing a great job of being receptive of what we’re trying to do, putting them in certain positions, and mixing the order up. We’ve mixed the order up a lot.
“Annalee Miller has been killing the ball. We’ve moved her down a little bit, maybe taking a little bit of pressure off of her, but she is just really doing a great job and we’re real pleased with her effort.”
The Lady Devils started four sophomores and two freshmen. The lineup for Lewis County (3-5) was even younger.
“We started four eighth-graders tonight and two freshmen, so we’re pretty young,” Lykins said. “We’ll just continue to get better. We’ve got a lot of work to do.”
Russell clambered on top in the first inning when Powell’s two-out double to the fence in left-center plated Hannah Carter.
Two innings later, Ison fouled off about a half-dozen two-strike pitches before doubling home Miller. Sara Hieneman’s sacrifice fly scored Ison, and Abby Gambill singled up the middle to drive in Fultz.
Alexis Maynard doubled and scored on a Lady Lions throwing error in the sixth, Ison’s bloop double drove in Miller, and Shelbie Watkins’ sac fly knocked in Ison to close the scorebook at 7-0.
Stevens said her team’s start to the game was “a little off, but you know what, they kept their focus and pulled out the win and (I) was proud of their effort.”
Kelsey Rizzo took the decision for Lewis County, yielding 11 hits.
“Our pitcher threw the best she could,” the coach said. “She had no walks and no home runs. Against Russell, I think that’s a pretty big deal.”
Russell now stands 1-0 in 63rd District tournament seeding action, while the Lady Lions dropped to 0-2.
That continues the Lady Devils’ dominance of the district — they’ve won six straight district tournaments and are 51-8 against district opponents since being moved to the 63rd District before the 2006 season.
During the same time frame, Lewis County is 9-43 against the district. It dropped its 13th straight contest to Russell and 10th straight against district foes.
Russell has won 27 of its last 29 games against the district, while Lewis County has lost 29 of its last 30 in that setting.
The Lady Lions see themselves about to make headway there.
“Greenup, Raceland, Russell are all good, quality teams, and we’re better this year than what we were last year. I strongly believe that,” Lykins said. “I think we’ll just improve throughout the year.”
The two teams meet again May 1 in Vanceburg.
LEWIS CO. 000 000 0 — 0 1 3
RUSSELL 103 003 X — 7 10 2
Rizzo and Stamm; Powell and Ison. W — Powell. L — Rizzo. 2B — Ison 2 (R), Powell (R), Maynard (R).
ZACK KLEMME can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (606) 326-2658.