Russell softball coach Ron Osborn and Boyd County softball coach Geoff Stewart are trying to avoid the favorite tag for this week’s 16th Region Softball Tournament as much as a bases loaded walk or an error on a routine play.

“I don’t have any problem being a target because that just shows the coaches in the region respect your program,” Stewart said. “But Russell is the five-time defending champion and to me that means they’re the favorite until somebody knocks them off.”

Osborn was having none of it.

“He’s in driver’s seat right now,” he said.

It can be safely said that when the tournament gets under way Monday at Russell the Lady Lions and Lady Devils are solid favorites to reach Wednesday’s final.

That’s a possibility after Saturday’s draw put them in opposite brackets. The five-time defending region champion Lady Devils (25-12) open play Monday at noon against East Carter (8-18) and are followed by Rowan County (17-17) and Ashland (19-11) at 2 p.m.

Rowan County, Morgan County, Russell and Boyd County come into the tournament as district champions with Fleming County, East Carter, Raceland and Ashland as the runner-ups.

The final two quarterfinal games have Morgan County (19-4) taking on Raceland (14-11) at 4 p.m. and Boyd County (27-9) meeting Fleming County (5-14) at 6 p.m.

Tuesday’s semifinals are scheduled for 5:30 p.m. and 7 p.m. with Wednesday’s championship scheduled for 7 p.m.

Besides Russell and Boyd County, Osborn said he believes Dave Miller’s Ashland Kittens could make some noise.

“I think Ashland will be there. Miller has done a fantastic job with that program,” Osborn said. “They came down to our place earlier this year and had the lead on us before we pulled it out.”

Osborn downplayed any advantage of playing at home, but said there are some intangibles that he thinks might help his team.

“What I like about it is the crowd,” he said. “Our kids respond to the crowd and naturally they’re going to play a little looser and play better ball at home.”

Stewart said he did not see playing on the Lady Devils’ home field as a disadvantage.

“I like it being at Russell because their field is very similar to ours,” he said. “It’s nicely laid out field and it has brick dust just like we do so we’re not going to have any trouble playing at Russell.”

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