After watching Russell come from behind to defeat his Raceland softball team twice in five days — 4-3 and 5-4 — coach Shawn Johnson summed it up nicely.
“I guess right now they are one run better than us,” Johnson said.
The Lady Devils scored twice in the fifth to erase a 4-2 deficit, then staged a two-out rally in the sixth to break the 4-4 tie Tuesday night.
Freshman Cassie Fultz singled sharply with two outs and motored home for the winning run on Mallory Powell’s drive off the right-field fence.
Last Friday, Russell edged out Raceland for the 16th Region All “A” Classic championship after trailing 2-0 and 3-2.
“We get leads and haven’t been able to hold them off,” Johnson said. “Russell has good hitters that put the ball in play. They have good speed and put stress on your defense. You’ve got to make clean plays, good throws.”
Case in point, the Lady Devils trailed 4-2 with one out in the fifth when speedy leadoff hitter Sydney Watkins reached on a throw that pulled Raceland’s first baseman off the bag.
Watkins proceeded to steal second and third, then scored on a wild pitch. After Annalee Miller lined out, Hannah Carter walked and came all the way around to score as senior Arden Gross lined a double just inside the left-field line.
Gross, who bats clean-up, has power and is known for her propensity to pull pitches foul. She was elated to see this one land in fair territory.
“I’ve been working on it,” Gross said with a smile.
In an earlier at-bat Tuesday she jerked multiple foul balls to the left. “I finally said to myself, let’s just hit a fair one and be done with it.”
Gross reached safely all four trips to the plate, including a hard-hit single in the second inning. She also threw out a runner attempting to steal second.
“Raceland is a district opponent, so that’s always a big deal,” Gross said. “We want to be No. 1 in the district. I play two other sports, so I’ve always had it out for Raceland.”
She’s earned All-Area honors in softball, volleyball and basketball. Lady Devils coach Ron Osborn is accustomed to seeing Gross come through in key situations.
“Arden is a senior and plays like one,” Osborn said. “She’s a team captain who is all the time talking to her teammates, especially the younger ones. She’s a real leader right now.”
Russell has won seven of its last eight games after an 0-4 start. One of the big reasons is Powell’s pitching. One night after firing a no-hitter against Ashland, Powell went the distance against Raceland with eight strikeouts.
“She’s amazing,” Gross said. “I’ve seen a lot of pitchers that tire in the sixth and seventh inning, but Mallory always brings it.”
Powell faced the minimum nine batters over the last three innings.
“The team effort was great,” Osborn said. “The kids are digging down and playing hard. After that win over Ashland, they are on a roll. They want to continue to be on a roll.”
Raceland (6-8) had a three-game winning streak snapped.
The Lady Rams jumped out to a 2-0 lead in the first inning as Powell allowed a rare homer. Bre Grubb hit a two-run shot over the left-field fence with Taylor Podunavac aboard via a double. Podunavac also hit a run-scoring single in the fourth. Another runner scored on the play when the ball got past Russell’s right fielder.
Arden Gross struck out to lead off Russell’s second inning, but the ball went to the backstop allowing her to reach first. Freshman Loren Gross hit a run-scoring double and Powell added an RBI single to make it 2-2.
The teams are scheduled to meet again May 6 at Russell and they could well see each other in the 63rd District tournament.
RUSSELL 020 021 0 — 5 8 1
RACELAND 200 200 0 — 4 6 2
Powell and A. Gross; Diller and Curley. W—Powell. L—Diller. 2B—Podunavac (Ra.), L. Gross (Ru.), A. Gross (Ru.), Powell (Ru.). HR—B. Grubb (Ra.)