Mallory Powell had some no-hit success last season, but nothing to rival her magic from the circle Monday.
The Russell junior dominated four-time defending region champion Ashland to come out on top in a pitcher’s duel with Megan Hensley.
Along with her seven no-hit innings, Powell registered nine strikeouts, walked nobody and faced only one batter over the minimum for a 1-0 victory at Ashland Softball Complex.
“Mal was awesome, really awesome,” Russell coach Ron Osborn. “We are living off her arm right now.”
Powell, who is 6-foot-2, struck out the side in the sixth inning and then retired the Kittens in order in the seventh. Left fielder Alexis Maynard, an eighth-grader, held onto a fly ball for the second out despite bumping into center fielder Hope Parsley on the play. Hensley bounced out to third baseman Hannah Carter to end the game.
“It was a big win,” Powell said after Russell became the first 16th Region team to beat the Kittens this season. “I’ve been having pitching lessons with Tony Ellis at KC Diamond. It’s definitely brought up my speed.”
Powell also described her confidence as up. She showed more pop with her pitches than Friday night, when Russell edged Raceland 4-3 for the 16th Region All “A” Classic championship in Olive Hill.
Powell credited part of the difference to better pitching conditions Monday. But that wasn’t all.
“I was pumped, I just saw the movie ‘42’, Powell said of the Jackie Robinson story. ”It was an inspiration. I saw it three times over the weekend.”
Ashland coach Dave Miller said he couldn’t recall the Kittens being no-hit since he took over the program in 2006.
Powell set the tone by striking out Ashland’s first two hitters.
Hayley Kilburn became the only Ashland batter to reach base, courtesy of a Russell error to start the third. After Jordan Meade’s sacrifice bunt moved courtesy runner Kory Nichols to second, Powell recorded a strikeout. Sydney Whitt followed with Ashland’s best bid for a hit, but Carter went to her knee to spear a sharp grounder and threw to first base for the third out.
“I was really nervous,” Powell said. “My heart kind of stopped when the ball came off the bat. I thought their hitting streak was starting.”
Instead, it was the Russell pitcher’s hitless streak that stayed intact.
“Hannah is so quick laterally,” Osborn said. “She’s a super competitor. I think our defense is pretty well set for the season.”
After two Powell strikeouts in the fourth, Russell shortstop Sydney Watkins made a running catch of a pop fly in short center.
Overall, Powell enjoyed success pitching on both corners. Two of Ashland’s hardest-hit balls were pulled for long fouls by Vanover — who has seven home runs this season — and Whitt.
“Mallory’s screwball breaks inside really well,” Osborn said. “Vanover has great hands. I don’t care what we threw, she made contact.”
Powell cooled off a Kittens team that went 5-0 last week, outscoring Ironton, Boyd County, Fairview, Cincinnati Oak Hills and Greenup County by a combined 50-7.
“Mallory Powell did a really good job,” Miller said. “Obviously, one of the big things we didn’t do was make adjustments at the plate. Russell came in with a great approach to the game, and we didn’t seem to have any fire in our belly.”
Hensley kept the Kittens in it all the way with an outstanding performance of her own. She struck out 13 batters and allowed only three hits.
“Megan pitched a heckuva game,” her coach said. “We win 99.9 percent of the time with her throwing the way she did tonight.”
Russell’s Arden Gross hit a bloop double in the fourth inning that led to the game’s only run. Sara Hieneman followed with a hard-hit grounder up the middle that glanced off the glove of Ashland second baseman Katie Caron for a single.
The Lady Devils’ only other hit was a popup between third base and the mound that fell when an infielder backed off.
Both teams are back on the field today. Russell (6-5) travels to Raceland, while Ashland (11-5) plays host to Cabell Midland.
RUSSELL 000 100 0 — 1 3 1
ASHLAND 000 000 0 — 0 0 2
Powell and A. Gross; Hensley and Kilburn. W—Powell. L—Hensley. 2B—A. Gross (R).