From now on, Russell pitcher Bobby May might experience mixed feelings when asked to take the mound.
That’s because Keelan Rice was just a bit too outstanding at May’s normal position. The freshman’s dazzling defense at shortstop, along with a run-racking fourth inning, helped the Red Devils upend Boyd County, 6-3, on Monday night at Russell High School.
“I told him to stop taking my position!” May joked after the game.
Third baseman Tate Trimble’s glove had a gold tint, too, completing a lockdown performance by the left side of the infield behind May in his first pitching start of the season. It was the right-hander’s second appearance, the first coming in relief against Ashland.
May worked six innings, giving up six hits and striking out two. He struggled with control at times, with serious trouble emerging in the seventh. He walked the first two batters he faced before plunking the next two as his pitch count reached 117.
“(My arm) didn’t really throb, but it was mainly my legs getting out from under me,” May said.
Boyd County drew an RBI walk to cut the deficit to 6-3 against Joel Mullen, Russell’s ace who made a rare relief appearance. Mullen then struck out the next two and got Robbie Shivel to hit a soft lineout to second base — where, fittingly, Rice had shifted when May moved to shortstop — to pick up the save.
“We brought in Mullen in a big jam, and he pitched out of it,” said Russell coach Mike Martino, crediting assistant Matt Roy for the decision. “Now we go into Monday (63rd District Tournament opening round against Lewis County), and our pitching options are wide open.”
Russell (17-13) has won 11 of its last 15 games. Martino said boosts in both pitching and defense are the reasons.
Rice hogged most of the web gems, as ESPN’s “Baseball Tonight” labels them, with seven putouts that included an unassisted double play in his first varsity start at shortstop. He also fearlessly attempted to field a scorcher off the bat of Jake Cook that glanced off his wrist for a hit.
Trimble took his turn to wow in the sixth, when he rushed to snare a foul popup in swirling wind. He had to hop backward to catch it behind his head.
As for Russell’s hitting, it’s been steady all season, for the most part.
Heath Hensley highlighted the first three innings with doubles to right center field in his first two at-bats. He scored Russell’s first two runs.
The Red Devils poured on four more runs to expand the lead to 6-1 in a pivotal fourth frame.
After Shivel fanned Jacob McKee, the next seven Red Devils reached base. Two got aboard with walks, another batter was hit by a pitch and one reached on an error as RBI singles by May and Troy Huffine forced Boyd County to bring Jason Anders onto the mound.
“(Shivel) left the ball up a little bit, but we had a chance to make some plays and didn’t,” said Boyd County coach Brandon Ramsey. “They were able to drop a few (hits) in and put a (four-spot) on us.”
Boyd County (17-15) stranded enough people on base to fill up two minivans. Ramsey’s bunch left the bases loaded three times on its way to trapping 14 total Lions on the basepaths.
“That’s what we’ve been doing,” Ramsey said. “We don’t have anybody that wants to step up and get the big hit. Everybody goes up there looking for a walk with men on base instead of looking for a hit.”
The Lions dropped their fourth straight contest.
“We left 12 (on base) against Lewis County, and about the same against Christian County this weekend,” Ramsey continued. “That’s what we were doing earlier in the season. We’ve got a bunch of kids that need to grow up and take responsibility when they get to the plate, and right now we don’t have any.”
Shivel accounted for a run-scoring infield single in the second inning to score Corey Sublett, who had been hit by a pitch — May beaned a total of four Lions.
Boyd County had another glowing opportunity in the third, but failed to bring Cook (single) and Billy McCoy (double) home as May induced a groundout, lineout and strikeout.
“Give Russell all the credit,” Ramsey said. “But right now it looks like we don’t even want to be here. If we continue like this, it’ll be a short postseason run.”
Russell also won a home meeting with Boyd County last season.
BOYD CO. 010 000 2 — 3 6 2
RUSSELL 101 400 x — 6 9 2
Shivel, Anders (4) and Barnwell; May, Mullen (7) and Cathey. W—May. L—Shivel. Sv—Mullen. 2B—Hensley 2 (R), Barnwell (B), McCoy (B).