CANNONSBURG Raceland is riding the big inning through the 16th Region Softball Tournament.

The Lady Rams scored seven in the third frame to beat Boyd County 9-4 on Monday and reach the championship game for the first time since 2007.

That’s five years before Shawn Johnson began his successful stint building the program back into one of the region’s top contenders.

Johnson savored the moment with Raceland players, coaches and fans outside the visitor’s dugout at Boyd County Softball Complex.

“Thank goodness Montana Fouts is in Tuscaloosa,” Raceland’s eighth-year coach said of the former East Carter pitching great who knocked Raceland out of the regional tournament two of the past three seasons. “I don’t know if this is our best team. We got hot at the right time.”

The Lady Rams crushed 28-game winner East Carter, 18-1, in the opening round, thanks to a nine-run third inning and seven-spot in the fourth.

Unlike that display of power hitting — highlighted by four home runs — Raceland didn’t need a single extra base hit in the semifinals. A couple of well-placed bunts and major help from Boyd County allowed the Lady Rams to hang a seven on the board after two scoreless innings.

Four errors, three walks and a hit batsman accounted for most, but not all, of the damage. A passed ball and Bailey Conley wild pitch produced the first two runs. Another wild pitch brought home Chloe Collins, and Kierston Smith’s heads-up baserunning allowed her to score on the play as well.

“That’s the second time Kierston’s done that against them this season,” said Johnson, alluding to Raceland’s 10-6 win at Boyd County on May 14. “She’s very alert on the bases.”

The Lady Rams scored their first four runs without benefit of a hit, and Chloe Watts came on in relief after Cameryn Davidson received Conley’s third walk of the third inning.

“Bailey had been throwing the ball well,” Johnson said. “Our goal was to be disciplined up there. We wanted her to throw a lot of pitches and it was hot out there.”

As the third inning continued, a Boyd County communication error in left center field helped proceeded Ashley Newman’s RBI single — her first of three hits. Hannah Wilson bunted for a single on a safety squeeze, with Aspyn Branham racing home on the play, and Raegan West’s sacrifice fly made it 7-0.

“That was a really bad inning,” Boyd County coach Dave Wheeler said. “A lot of it was self-inflected and things just snowballed. You can’t do that and beat any kind of team.”     

Boyd County’s highly regarded outfield trio each committed an error during the inning.

“You probably have a better chance hitting on the lottery than that happening,” Wheeler said.

Overall, the Lady Lions finished with six errors and issued nine walks.

“We gave away too many outs and let tem have too many people running around the bases,” Wheeler said. “When you dig a hole against teams, especially somebody like Raceland, it’s hard to come back from that.”

Raceland moved to 28-11 and will face Ashland tonight at 7 for the championship. The Lady Rams will be going for their first region title.

“What they figured out is everybody doesn’t have to do the same job,” Johnson said of his players. “But if anyone doesn’t do their job, the whole system is shot.”

Davidson, a sophomore, described the Lady Rams’ arrival in the region final as “freakin’ awesome” after pitching 4 1/3 innings for the victory. West finished in the circle.

“Honestly, I know I don’t have that much speed,” Davidson said of her pitches. “I try to locate it and change speeds. My defense is so good behind me.”

Raceland led 9-1 after Smith’s RBI single in the sixth and Rylee Austin’s sacrifice fly in the seventh.

Boyd County (25-12) picked up three runs in its last at-bat. Conley delivered two with a single. Graci Borders closed out a stellar career by escaping a rundown to score on a head-first slide for her team’s final run. Borders also had an RBI groundout in the third.      

“Nobody thought we would accomplish what we did as far as competing and getting to this point,” Wheeler said.  

RACELAND    007    001    1    —    9    7    0

BOYD CO.    001    000    3    —    4    8    6

Davidson, West (5) and Branham; Conley, Watts (3), Bays (6) and Peterman. W—Davidson. L—Conley.

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rstanley@dailyindependent.com