Russell-Flatwoods 11- and 12-year-old All-Stars found the right Layne to earn a trip back to the State Tournament on Monday night at Raceland-Worthington High School.
Russell used the steady right arm of Haven Layne and a big third inning to earn a 9-3 victory over the Raceland-Worthington All-Stars for the softball championship in a water-logged District 6 tournament.
Layne pitched five strong innings that included seven strikeouts and no free passes. She retired 14 of the next 15 batters she faced after putting herself in a three-run hole after one inning.
First-year coach Chris Lawler had complete confidence in his young right-hander.
“It was her game to lose tonight,” Lawler said. “She came out and pitched her heart out. She played great.”
When asked about his starting pitcher’s recovery after a rocky first inning, Lawler thought it only made her stronger.
“She was a little distraught after that happened but she stayed focused and struck out the next batter,” Lawler said.
The championship was marred by bad weather all weekend causing multiple delays and testing the patience of players, parents and fans.
Raceland won Saturday’s rain-plagued game, 6-3, to force a deciding game on Sunday. That game was postponed after a huge downpour left the field unplayable.
Lightning stuck again, literally, during Monday’s game forcing Russell-Flatwoods to wait an extra two hours to win its second straight district championship.
Russell’s coach was proud of the way his team persevered through all the delays.
“We try to keep them motivated every inning,” Lawler said. “We got a little flustered in the game the other night when it was raining, but we came out tonight and played really well.”
Raceland-Worthington shot out to an early lead after its first at-bat.
Tiffany Gedeon led off the game with a single up the middle and, after Morgan Curley reached on a fielder’s choice, Emily Johnson blasted a towering home run to right field, giving her team a 3-0 lead.
Russell plated its first run in the second inning on a double by Krissy Hall and a RBI single by Rylie Cook.
Highlighted by a two-run double by Makayla Fraley and singles from Maddie Hale, Camryn Ratliff and Layne, Russell-Flatwoods claimed the lead for good in the fourth as 13 batters came to the plate.
Russell also took advantage of three Raceland errors to score a total of eight runs in the inning and never looked back.
Grace Osborn, April Conley, Abby Keeton and Hall also scored runs.
Russell will now look for back-to-back state titles with a roster of new players.
“We only have one girl that played on last year’s team,” said Lawler. “We have 12 new girls on this team and that speaks volumes for Russell-Flatwoods softball.”
The State Tournament starts July 7 in London.
RACELAND 300 000 — 3 3 4
RUSSELL 018 00X — 9 8 0
Austin and Curley; Layne and Fraley. WP—Layne. LP—Fraley. 2B—Johnson (RW), K. Hall (RF), Fraley (RF). HR—Johnson (RW).