With a name like Montana, you just have to go big.
Six-foot eighth-grader Montana Fouts isn't a big talker, but when it comes to the business of softball, her skills convey a loud and clear message.
The East Carter pitcher is making herself a can't-pass-up commodity with her flawless throwing form and sizzling speed.
The following are colleges that have already extended scholarship offers to the 13-year-old: Ohio State, Mississippi State, Oregon, Marshall, James Madison and South Florida.
"She's an outstanding girl, she's an outstanding player, and she's only an eighth-grader," said East Carter coach Derek Calhoun. "So she'll only get better."
According to On Deck Softball, a renowned recruiting service for college softball coaches, Fouts is the class of 2018's No. 1 pitcher in the country.
The outpouring of next-level attention began during the ASA (Amateur Softball Association of America) National Championships last summer. Fouts participated with Thunder Elite, a team from Youngstown, Ohio. The squad finished fifth out of 100 in the competition.
Since then, Fouts has sprouted five inches and continues to flourish in the circle. Several travel teams have taken notice.
This coming summer, Fouts will join the Birmingham (Ala.) Thunderbolts 99. The team is set to make stops all across the United States, including California for the PGF (Premier Girls Fastpitch) Nationals.
For now, Fouts's focus is on Lady Raider softball. She's having a whale of a season, with an 8-2 record, a 0.62 earned run average and 117 strikeouts in 11 appearances. The losses came against Ashland and Johnson Central, a pair of 1-0 defeats. She shares starting pitching duties with junior Morgan Jacobs.
Fouts is quite talented with the bat, too. East Carter's cleanup hitter has a .440 average. When not pitching, she plays first base.
Fouts's fastest pitches registered at 66 miles per hour on the radar gun during an On Deck Softball camp in Chicago last year.
Colleges (and others) are impressed with her heat, but also her feet.
"We were playing in Tennessee, and two umpires said, man, her footwork is the best they'd ever seen," Calhoun said. "They were kinda shocked when I told them she's not a senior, she's an eighth-grader."
Tim Fouts, East Carter's pitching coach and Montana's father, said Montana began pitching at age 7. Rather than get consumed with an expansive repertoire of pitches, Tim Fouts elected to limit their concentration to proper fundamentals.
"We worked on mechanics and speed first," Tim Fouts said. "It's hard on joints and muscles (to throw special pitches) if they're not fully developed."
A master at hitting her spots, Montana Fouts does occasionally throw a drop ball. She is currently working on a both a curveball and rise ball as well.
Fouts picked up the sport when she was 5. An unbending curiosity led to her stepping inside the pitching circle.
"When I was 7, a girl that I used to play T-ball with showed me (how to pitch) one time," Fouts said.
She was a natural from the get-go. By age 12, Fouts was humming pitches at 60 MPH.
When asked about being the top-ranked pitcher in her class, Fouts responded, "It shows me something's working," with a chuckle.
Thunderbolts 99 coach Jay Roberson is elated about Fouts joining his team in June. While he possesses a slew of Division I talent, he recognizes Fouts as a rare breed. He is already fielding countless calls from highly regarded college programs.
"I had an SEC coach tell me that (Montana) could possibly be the best pitcher to ever come out of high school," said Roberson, who's coached the Bolts for 6 1/2 years. "Another SEC coach told me that she's better as an eighth-grader than (a former All-American who played for that coach) was as a sophomore in college."
Roberson added that less than half of the starting Division I pitchers in the country throw as hard as Fouts does now.
As for all the recruiting chaos, Fouts handles it in stride.
"A lot of kids in her position would be arrogant and cocky," Roberson said. "She's not at all. She acts no different than a kid who might be the worst player in the country."
Schools that are also showing interest, but haven't yet offered, are UCLA, Kentucky, Florida, Missouri, Alabama, South Carolina, Texas and Auburn.
That list will only keep mounting for Montana.
AARON SNYDER can be reached at email@example.com or (606) 326-2664.
With a name like Montana, you just have to go big.
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