Northeastern Kentucky produced 2018’s Miss Softball (Montana Fouts), 2019’s Miss Basketball (Savannah Wheeler) and 2019’s Mr. Baseball (AJ Hacker) over the last 12-plus months.

But those aren’t the only three sports in which area athletes are shining on a grand stage. And they’re not just performing during the high school season.

Eastern Elite Soccer Academy took down Kentucky Fire, 4-3, on June 2 in Louisville to capture the Kentucky State Cup.

The girls team, which consists of a slew of familiar names from area schools, will represent the state in the regional championships in Saginaw, Michigan, June 21-23.

Trailing 2-0 through 10 minutes of the State Cup finals, Eastern Elite responded with a goal by Abby Huff (Ashland). East Carter product Taylor Hall then netted “two spectacular goals,” according to Elite coach Kyle Sniatecki. But the Fire struck back to knot it up at 3-3.

Prestonsburg’s Beth Burchett scored the game-winning goal when the Fire’s goalkeeper stepped out and hit a weak header that found Burchett’s foot for a “one-touch ball over the top of her,” Sniatecki said. “It was unreal.”

 “This is big for our club,” said the coach, “but this was the first time that any team in any group from eastern Kentucky was able to achieve that. It’s a big step forward for soccer in our area.”

Eastern Elite started in 2016.

“We’re happy about getting there, but we’re not complacent or settled,” Sniatecki said. “We’ve been training to make some noise and win some games up there. There will be a lot of teams coming from big areas that have been soccer powerhouses for years.”

Along with Hall and Huff, other northeastern Kentucky Eastern Elite players are Georgia Arrington (Russell), Abby Keeton (Russell), Hayleah Fletcher (Lawrence County), Ainsley Bender (Russell), Ally Moore (Lawrence County), Sarah Lycans (Lawrence County) and Clare Huff (Ashland).

‘Duck’ and (home) run

If you happen to stop by Ashland American’s Water Works fields or Ashland National’s Big Sandy Complex over the next couple weeks as All-Stars prepare for upcoming tournaments, ask around if they’ve ever witnessed what Dylan Duckwyler accomplished last Thursday in Westwood.

Those who have been around longer may pause to ponder, but it’s not likely they’ll recall such a feat.

Duckwyler, a 12-year-old player for the Braves, saved his best for last. In his final regular-season game on a Little League field, Duckwyler amassed 10 RBIs, collected three home runs and reached base five times.

Duckwyler deposited all three homers over the fence — contributing to his season total of seven long balls. He smacked two three-run bombs and powered out a grand slam. He was hit by a pitch in his first visit to the dish and intentionally walked in his final plate appearance. The Red Sox won, 21-18.

Duckwyler squeezed the remarkable stat-line into six innings. He’ll continue to compete as an All-Star.

Rakes inks with KCU

New Kentucky Christian University archery coach Mark Whitt targeted Boyd County’s Bryant Rakes from the get-go.

Rakes said it was a no-brainer to continue shooting for someone who’s helped guide him every step of the way.

“He’s been my coach since I was a little kid,” Rakes said. “It just so happened that he got that job out there at KCU. He’s a great coach. The school (KCU) was awesome. I couldn’t ask for better people.”

Rakes signed a letter of intent on Friday.

“I’ve been waiting a long time to go to college and shoot bows,” said Rakes, who plans to study business administration in Grayson.

Rakes picked up his first bow, given to him by his father, Grant, when he was 3.

“I fell in love with it,” Bryant Rakes said. “If I’m not shooting a bow, I’m sitting at the lake fishing.”

Rakes said he’s competed in a variety of tournaments at different levels. He was a state outdoors runner-up as a junior, he said. He then competed in a national tournament in Raleigh, North Carolina. Rakes was a state 5-spot champion as a freshman, he said.

Salow All-Star

Logan Salow is a California League All-Star.

The Rancho Cucamonga Quakes pitcher is piecing together an outstanding season for the Class A Advanced affiliate of the Los Angeles Dodgers.

The Ashland product is 2-0 with a 1.70 earned run average and five saves in 23 games. He’s struck out 62 batters in 37 innings. Salow has allowed zero earned runs and just three hits over his last 13 2-3 innings.

The California League All-Star Game is scheduled for Tuesday, June 18, in San Bernardino.


Several area softball players received All-State recognition for their efforts this spring.

Lawrence County’s Halli Caudill landed on the Class 2A first team. The junior racked up 77 stolen bases while smacking five home runs and batting .536.

Class 2A second-teamers include the following: Ashland’s Mykayla Akers, Rowan County’s Macy Jones and Boyd County’s Bailey Conley.

Fleming County’s Sidney Argo, Rowan County’s Haven Ford and Ashland’s Lauren Spears are honorable-mention selections in 2A.

Raceland third baseman Chloe Collins earned Class A first-team recognition. The sophomore hit .492 with 14 home runs, 14 doubles, 67 RBIs and 50 runs.

Elliott County’s Maleigh McDaniel made the Class A second team. Garnering honorable-mention status are Raceland teammates Rylee Austin and Kierston Smith.

Warren East senior Katie Gardner picked up the tag of Miss Softball. She is entering Friday’s state quarterfinals contest vs. Ashland with a 30-1 record and 321 strikeouts in 171 1-3 innings pitched. She’s also batting .383.

More for Wheeler

Miss Basketball Savannah Wheeler drained four 3-pointers and scored 19 points as Kentucky’s senior rallied to beat Indiana, 79-74, on Friday at Bellarmine University. The Boyd County graduate dropped in 14 of those points in the second half.

The Marshall commit led all scorers for the second time in as many days on Saturday in Indianapolis, but Indiana prevailed in that meeting, 76-71.

Reach AARON SNYDER at or (606) 326-2664. Follow @DIndependentQB on Twitter.