For The Independent
Russell’s softball team squandered three scoring chances on Wednesday against Greenup County.
The fourth and fifth gave the Lady Devils their seventh consecutive 63rd District title.
Russell second baseman Sara Hieneman's two-run single in the sixth inning helped the Lady Devils defeat Greenup County, 7-1, at Lewis County High School.
The Lady Devils scored all their runs in their final two at-bats. Hieneman’s first two runs batted in were two-thirds of her offensive contribution — a seventh-inning infield single just over second base scored third baseman Hannah Carter, one of five Russell runs.
Which largely allowed Russell coach Carol Stevens to laugh at what happened — the Lady Devils also left 13 runners on base. After the game, she said she facetiously sought over-the-counter pharmaceutical relief during it.
“I was popping antacids because I was about to pop an ulcer,” Stevens said. “ … But you know, they delivered when they had to deliver.”
Hieneman’s first two RBIs off Greenup County pitcher Brooke Johnson came off an inside pitch around the knees. She said Johnson fooled her “a little bit” in the seventh.
“I was expecting a better hit to knock in more runs, but I’ll take it,” Hieneman said of the second hit.
Hieneman was not the only reason Russell won. Senior pitcher Mallory Powell struck out five and allowed just three hits to go with a double.
“We knew we could (win),” Powell said. “We just had to build our confidence up every time. We get rattled sometimes, but we hold ourselves together; we come through.”
As for pitching, Powell said her curveball “was rockin’.”
“ … It was outside,” Powell said. “They were chasing it.”
Greenup County ultimately did not survive seven errors.
“We played a pretty good ball game, pitching well, fielding well,” Greenup County coach Eric Keeton said. “It seemed like once we made one error, that it started to crumble. They got some runs across. We’ve got to make sure that we hit the ball.”
Russell (15-16) had Wednesday’s opening scoring chance, but the first-inning rally fizzled when right fielder Cassie Fultz’s liner to second baseman Madi Greene stranded three. The Lady Musketeers faltered in the first, too, thanks to Powell’s three strikeouts.
Two of Johnson’s five strikeouts neutralized two Russell rallies. In the third, she handled Fultz — which wasted Powell’s double — and fanned Hieneman an inning later to strand two.
Greenup County (11-15) converted its scoring chance in the third. Shortstop Alex Lacey walked (she also tripled in the fifth), stole second, took third on Abby Sanders’s sacrifice bunt and scored on an error.
By the fifth inning, Stevens could’ve been forgiven for wondering what her team had to do to score.
A no-out, bases-loaded situation instantly became two out when Russell catcher Caitlyn Gullett lined out to Sam Mitchell, who then caught Powell off third. One batter later, shortstop Annalee Miller lined to Lacey.
“I thought we was in pretty good shape; it was a momentum swing for us,” Keeton said.
Then the sixth frame: center fielder Kenzy Moore and Carter scored on Hieneman’s single and one Lady Musketeer error. In the seventh, Miller, Carter, Emma Ison, Hieneman and Powell all scored, while Greenup County had two more miscues.
“Our Achilles’ heel all year long has been our fielding,” Keeton said. “It got us.”
Notes: The draw for the 16th Region softball tournament at Russell is at 10 a.m. Friday at East Carter High School in Grayson. Both Russell and Greenup County advance … Despite falling to Greenup County, 1-0, Tuesday, Lewis County junior pitcher Kelsey Rizzo set two school records: her 141 strikeouts is this season and 291 over her three-year career.
RUSSELL 000 002 5 — 7 11 1
GREENUP CO. 001 000 0 — 1 3 7
Powell and Gullett; Johnson and Howard. W—Powell. L—Johnson. 2B—Powell (R). 3B—Lacey (GC).