16th Region Softball Final: East Carter v Ashland

East Carter’s Montana Fouts pitched a perfect game into the first out of the 7th inning against Ashland in the 16th Region Softball Tournament Championship Wednesday, May 31, 2017, in Olive Hill, Ky. Photo by John Flavell/For The Daily Independent

GRAYSON Hitting a softball unleashed by Montana Fouts is akin to swimming against a surging tide.

Make that Crimson Tide.

Three years after becoming the youngest softball player to receive an offer from Alabama, East Carter’s scary good 6-foot-2 pitcher carried through on her verbal commitment made as a freshman.

Dozens of Fouts’ family members, teammates and friends shouted “Roll Tide” while attending a signing ceremony Thursday night in the high school cafeteria. Her mother, Stephanie Williams, stayed busy snapping photos.

“Montana’s a once-in-a-lifetime talent to come through East Carter, and I don’t think there’s any argument with that,” said ECHS athletic director Brandon Baker. “I compared it one time to being almost like when O.J. Mayo came to the 16th Region in basketball.”

Fouts is rated third nationally among Class of 2018 pitchers — and No. 7 overall — according to FloSoftball “Hot 100” rankings. A fastball consistently in the upper 60s is complemented by impeccable control.   

“Montana has incredible potential as a dominant pitcher for us,” Alabama head coach Patrick Murphy said in a release posted Thursday morning on UA’s website. “She has the size, speed and movement and led her (travel) team to a PGF championship this summer. She will continue the tradition of great pitching at Alabama.”

The Tide finished the 2017 season at 46-18, its road ending in the Super Regionals.

“Alabama competes in the SEC and against the best in the country,” Fouts said. “When I went down there as a freshman, the atmosphere, the coaches, everything was great. I remember them saying they thought I could make a difference. That meant a lot to me.”      

This summer, Kentucky high school softball’s two-time Gatorade Player of the Year was featured by USA Today in a series of “The 18 most compelling athletes in the Class of 2018.”  

One of her many superstitions is to “always hit” the helmet of catcher Caroline Young as the Lady Raiders break huddle for their defensive positions. Invariably, there’s not much hitting by opponents.

Since launching her varsity career all the way back in the sixth grade, Fouts owns a 0.39 ERA with 1,483 strikeouts in 797 innings. As one season turns to the next, she pounds the strike zone a little harder.

 East Carter coach Derek Calhoun was catching Fouts in practice a few years back and feared one of her fastballs had broken his thumb. After time passed, Calhoun figured he would give it another try one day last season, but that didn’t last long.

“One pitch was all I needed,” he said with a smile. “Montana is an amazing athlete and outstanding kid. She’s played a huge part in our success.”

Through the years, Fouts has worked countless hours with her father, Tim, an East Carter assistant.

Fouts, a .487 career hitter with 205 RBIs for the Lady Raiders, also carries a 3.8 grade point average. She’s taking four college classes at Kentucky Christian and ACTC, with plans to major in psychology and minor in sports management.

In the meantime, East Carter and its ace want to win a state championship next spring. The Lady Raiders went 3-2 in Owensboro each of the past two seasons with Fouts pitching every inning.

The Lady Raiders are determined to finish the job this time.

“I would love it,” Fouts said. “That’s what we practice for, getting in the championship game and winning it. We’ve been down there twice. We have the experience and know what it takes. I really do think this year is our year.”

Teammate Eden Mayo is set to sign with Louisville on Saturday, giving East Carter three Division-I athletes in the span of one year. Kristen Mayo is beginning her freshman basketball season at Marshall.

“East Carter is very proud,” Baker said. “Obviously, they’re all super talents and also great examples of how hard work does pay off. They get to keep playing the sports they love and have their college education paid for.”

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