Whether firing fastballs or swinging the bat herself, Mallory Powell is usually clutch.
On a windy Thursday evening, the Russell senior came through again.
Powell outdueled Greenup County pitcher Brooke Johnson and also doubled home Alexis Maynard to give Russell a 1-0 victory.
Powell limited the Lady Musketeers to three singles — two of the infield variety — and rang up 10 strikeouts in the matchup of 63rd District rivals.
“She has maybe nerves of steel,” Russell coach Carol Stevens said of the tall right-hander. “Mallory doesn’t seem to get rattled. She can step back and regain her focus. Then the way she hits the ball, too, she delivers on both ends.”
The Lady Devils needed that kind of performance to take the latest nailbiter between the teams. Last year, Russell edged Greenup County 3-2 in 13 innings for the district title on a Powell walk-off double.
“Everybody remembers that one, right before regionals,” Powell recalled. “We wanted to come out today and show them we mean business.”
Stevens anticipated another tight battle.
“We knew it was going to be that way,” she said. “Any time Russell and Greenup County get on the field, it’s going to be an inch.”
Sure enough, the game was scoreless when Powell came to the plate following Maynard’s two-out single in the sixth inning. Powell ripped a drive to right-center that rolled to the fence, allowing Maynard to come all the way around with the game’s only run.
“When I went up to bat, I realized I needed to step up with Alexis out there on first,” Powell said. “I focused on not trying to kill it, just making contact. That’s what I did.”
Greenup County coach Eric Keeton could only tip his cap to Powell.
“Our pitcher hit her spot,” Keeton said. “We had been successful a couple of times before that pitching Mallory in the same area. She had a good inside-out swing and drove the ball.”
Powell retired the side in order in the seventh to close it out. Shortstop Hannah Carter went to her knee to catch a line drive for the final out.
“Since we are seeding, every game in the district is important,” Stevens said. “Both pitchers did a great job. We finally pushed one across in the sixth inning. That’s the way these games are played.”
Johnson yielded five hits in six innings with six strikeouts and no walks.
Powell was a little better, escaping a jam in the fifth inning to keep Greenup County off the scoreboard. The Lady Musketeers loaded the bases with one out on Powell’s only two walks, wrapped around Abby Wright’s bunt single. Russell’s third baseman then dropped a routine pop foul just outside the third-base line, but Powell struck out the batter and then got a groundout to end the inning.
Greenup County (6-6) also left two runners stranded in scoring position in the first inning. Powell ended that threat with a strikeout, one of her 10 for the game.
“I thought I did pretty well working my spots,” Powell said. “I had been struggling a little with my curve. It was better today.”
Carter, one of the area’s top players, was just happy to contribute on her birthday. She was penciled in as Russell’s leadoff hitter, but threw up before the game and sat out the first two innings.
“One too many pieces of birthday cake,” Carter said with a smile afterwards.
Carter returned in the third inning and singled in her first at bat.
“Getting the win was a good birthday gift,” she said. “We really had to work. Greenup County had some nice catches in the outfield which kind of stopped our momentum.”
Keeton said the Lady Musketeers worked on defense in practice Wednesday after struggling in that phase recently.
“We refocused on that and made some real good plays today,” he said.
Maynard, a freshman, singled twice for Russell (9-4).
GREENUP CO. 000 000 0 — 0 3 1
RUSSELL 000 001 x — 1 5 2
Johnson and Howard; Powell and Ison. W—Powell. L—Johnson. 2B—Powell (R).
ROCKY STANLEY can be reached at email@example.com or (606) 326-2671.