It is time for the 16th Region to take notice of the Raceland softball team.
Savannah Mackie drove in two runs to complement another dazzling pitching performance from Kelsey Diller as the Lady Rams shut out visiting Greenup County, 4-0, for their seventh win in a row.
Raceland coach Shawn Johnson has built a solid program, but his squad's success didn't happen overnight. Johnson believes it happened years ago and the team is now starting to take advantage.
"This junior class is the first group that went through the Little League program that we started several years ago," Johnson said. "We are right now reaping the rewards of all that work we did when we established the league.
"Virtually, all the kids in our program played in our Little League program," he added. "It's enjoyable knowing the core of parents and kids have been here the whole time and that's what makes it rewarding."
Diller shut down the Greenup County offense, allowing just three hits. The junior hurler's efficient performance included six punchouts and no walks.
"Every day, you know that you are going to have an opportunity to win the game because you know she is going to keep you there," Johnson said. "She is going to battle and not give in. She gets every ounce out of her body and you get what she's got."
Greenup County coach Eric Keeton took notice of Diller's performance. He added his team's lack of hitting is the reason for its mini-slump.
"Diller hit her spots and does a good job for Raceland," Keeton said. "But we have been in a little slump recently. We are just not hitting the ball and not giving any run support. The momentum changes in a 3-0 or 4-0 ballgame if you can get some runs across."
Keeton's ace, Brooke Johnson, also fared well inside the circle. She gave up five free passes, but Raceland tallied just four hits.
"(Johnson) pitched pretty well and we were hitting our spots decent today," Keeton said. "We try and work corners and throw some pitches to try and get the batters to chase."
Raceland grabbed the early lead in its first at-bat. Taylor Podunavac started off with a walk and a sacrifice bunt moved her to second.
Mackie hit a hard grounder that glanced off the second baseman's glove. Podunavac, hustling from second, scored as the throw sailed over the catcher's mitt.
Mackie went 2-for-3 with a double.
"Savannah is a really good hitter," Johnson said. "Her swing is getting better each day. Before the game started, I told her, ‘You are about ready to go on a tear.'"
Podunavac scored again in the third when Mackie's RBI double found the wall in the right-center field gap.
Leigh Grubb doubled to start the fourth as her ball landed just inside the right-field line. Two walks later, the bases were loaded.
This time Podunavac was on the giving end, as her grounder to the right side of the infield plated Grubb.
An insurance run came around to score in the sixth for the Lady Rams courtesy of Morgan Curley's opposite-field double that sent MaKenna Weaver all the way home from first.
With the win, Raceland improves its record to 11-3 and 2-0 in 63rd District seeding play.
Johnson feels proud of his program that he and others have built from the ground up.
"It's enjoyable to watch the fruits of the labor pay off," Johnson said. "What we have here is dynamite and it’s something all the parents and players can have pride in.
"It’s that everyone has paid a price and that what makes us good."
Greenup County falls to 7-8 and 2-2 in the district.
GREENUP CO. 000 000 0 — 0 3 0
RACELAND 101 101 x — 4 4 0
Johnson and Howard; Diller and Curley. WP—Diller. LP—Johnson. 2B—Mackie (R), Grubb (R), Curley (R).