Boyd County softball coaches implemented a firm plan when it came to pitcher Lora Thompson this season.
A simple strategy is now churning out superb results, the latest being a 3-0 complete-game shutout of Russell on Thursday at Russell High School.
Nicole Goins cranked a double and a two-run home run to help supply Thompson support.
Thompson, a sophomore right-hander, has battled shoulder and elbow tendinitis in her throwing arm since she was an eighth-grader. The pain comes and goes.
At the moment? “My shoulder’s feeling good,” she said.
The numbers from her last two outings serve as evidence. She followed up last Friday’s six-strikeout, three-hit performance against Highlands with a seven-strikeout, three-hit gem on Thursday.
Boyd County head coach Geoff Stewart talked about the team’s handling of Thompson.
“We’ve told her all year that we want to bring her along slowly,” Stewart said. “If we ever see anything out there that might (indicate) she’s hurt, we’re bringing her out because it’s so important to have her down the stretch. She’s starting to get some innings in, starting to pitch well.”
Thompson turned several Russell hitters into statues, as six of her seven K’s came without a Lady Devil swing.
“I got on them early because they were looking,” said Russell coach Ron Osborn. “I kept telling them, ‘She’s not bringing any junk when she’s got two (strikes) on you, so be prepared and don’t stand there and look at it. But we had six stand there and look at it ... it was like they were frozen.”
At one point, Thompson befuddled three consecutive batters with called third strikes.
“Just working inside and outside really caught them off-guard,” Thompson said. “I would throw inside, outside and throw a rise ball every now and then.”
Sydney Watkins, one of Russell’s two seniors recognized on Senior Night, gave the Lady Devils their first hit with a single to left in the third inning. They notched one more single in the sixth and another in the seventh.
Boyd County (20-9) broke free from a scoreless tie when Bri Crooks lifted a double to deep right field before Nicole Goins’ big blast. She slammed an 0-1 offering from Mallory Powell over the fence in left center. Goins finished 2-for-3 with two RBIs.
“That was a big hit by Bri, and Nicole,” Stewart said. “We’ve got to have that. To be a championship team, you’re going to have to have that. We can’t depend on Taylor (Wheeler) and Emily (Stewart) every single game.”
Wheeler accounted for the third RBI, when she shot an RBI single through the middle of the infield in the seventh. Wheeler and Stewart were just 1-for-8 combined, a very rare occurrence.
Russell (10-13) assembled somewhat of a threat in the seventh, when Powell and Cassie Fultz reached base to allow Watkins a chance as the would-be tying run. The speedy shortstop hit a sharp groundout to third base to end the game.
Boyd County assistant coach Dave Wheeler paid a visit to Thompson just before Watkins stepped up to the plate.
“He just said to bear down and go right at her,” recalled Thompson, who had a spotless defense behind her. Second baseman Destiny Goins and third baseman Taylor Brown highlighted an error-free fielding night.
The shutout was the Lady Lions’ third of the season, and it was just the third time Russell had been blanked.
Osborn commented about his two seniors between the game and an upcoming contest with Fairview.
“(Catcher Arden Gross) has been with me seven years,” Osborn said. “It’s like she’s my daughter. I’m really going to miss that kid.
“Syd is a tremendous little player,” he added. “If she gets on, you might as well say she’s going to steal, steal, steal. She brings a lot to our ball club.”
BOYD CO. 000 200 1 — 3 8 0
RUSSELL 000 000 0 — 0 3 2
Thompson and Stewart; Powell and Gross. W—Thompson. L—Powell. 2B—Crooks (B), N. Goins (B). HR—N. Goins (B).
Fairview jumped out to a 3-0 lead in the first inning before Russell’s third inning gave the Lady Devils the lead for good on Thursday night in the second part of a doubleheader.
In the third, Hope Parsley hit a two-run double before Mallory Powell parked a two-run homer.
Cassie Fultz pitched seven innings and picked up the win for Russell (11-13).
Fairview fell to 15-12 on the season.