For The Independent
You could hear thunder during the bottom of the sixth inning of Tuesday's Junior League softball game at Lewis County High School.
There was lightning, too, which stalled the District 6 title contest between Russell-Flatwoods and Lewis County for nearly 30 minutes.
They were not the only noises. The third — Russell-Flatwoods' eight-run sixth inning — led to a two-day 11-6 win. The game was put on hold in the second inning on Monday night with Russell-Flatwoods leading 2-0.
For rebounding from a 6-2 deficit, Russell-Flatwoods will defend its state title beginning July 12 in London. The way Russell-Flatwoods coach Kendra Holmes saw it, what happened last night was the result of winning state and reaching the regional tournament last year.
“Most of these girls were on the state-winning team last year, and we have had to come back from even more than that,” Holmes said. “The thing about these girls is, they have been at this point before, and they know they have the ability to go back and get the hits.”
So, was Russell first baseman Alexis Maynard worried about her team trailing? Nope, especially after her three-run triple in the sixth.
“They threw me a lot of (pitches) inside, and I'm not the greatest on an inside pitch,” Maynard said. “And then (Lewis County's Jalyssa Cortez) threw me an outside pitch; that's what I hit best.”
Maynard's teammate, pitcher Sara Hieneman, wasn't concerned about giving up all six runs and allowing 10 Lewis County batters in the third inning — not when she smacked a double in the sixth. Maybe more importantly, she shut out Lewis County the final four innings, allowing just two base runners and struck out six for the night.
There was more Russell offense besides Maynard and Hieneman. Center fielder Ali Hartman added a second-inning, two-run double Monday and drove in three runs altogether, and third baseman Shelbie Watkins tripled and scored in the seventh.
What may have impressed Holmes most, however, was the play left fielder Grace Hall made in the sixth — an over-the-shoulder grab of Lewis County catcher Haylee Stamm's foul fly.
“It was hard to see because it was so far over my head, and I had to reach really far to get it,” Hall said. “I was already over there, and I could get to it easier.”
Yet the toughest member of the team may be Holmes. She limped everywhere thanks to injuring a right knee ligament Monday.
“Sadly, I was just walking,” Holmes said. “I wasn't doing anything spectacular.”
Lewis County was playing a little short-handed; coach Greg Caudill said one player was on vacation, two others had muscle strains in their backs, and Cortez suffered burns on one leg thanks to practicing in shorts and falling.
“It was really tough,” Caudill said. “They're last year's state champions, and we played hard. We had a lot of injuries.”
For five innings, Lewis County's attack was almost as balanced as Nik Wallenda's wire-walk across the Grand Canyon.
There was power hitting — right fielder Kendra Cornette's single closed Russell-Flatwoods' lead to 2-1 in the second inning, and shortstop Gracie Yates' three-run double led a five-run third. There was pitching, too; Cortez struck out three and retired 11-of-12 between the second and fourth innings.
Russell-Flatwoods' gave up a run in Tuesday's second inning largely because of its own mistakes. Two errors and Kendra Cornette's single plated third baseman Savannah Stamper.
Lewis County sent 10 batters to the plate in the third. Stamper's single scored Stamm, Cornette's fielder's choice plated left fielder Brianna Clemons, and Stamper, first baseman Emily Bentley and Cornette also scored.
Like Holmes, Maynard said taking last year's title definitely will help in London.
“We're used to the competition,” she said.
R.-FLATWOODS 020 008 1 — 11 7 2
LEWIS CO. 015 000 0 — 6 5 3
Hieneman and Holmes. Cortez, Bentley (6) and Stamm. W—Hieneman. L—Cortez. 2B—Hartman (R-F), Yates (LC), Hieneman (R-F). 3B—Maynard (R-F), Watkins (R-F).