BY ROCKY STANLEY
THE DAILY INDEPENDENT
FLATWOODS Befitting a team blistering the ball at a .424 clip entering May, everybody in Russell’s batting order hit safely Monday.
The Lady Devils struck for four runs in the first inning behind doubles from Sara Hieneman and Ali Hartman and went on to defeat Boyd County 8-2.
Heavy showers earlier in the day gave way to sunshine and gusty winds at Russell Softball Complex. The home team collected 14 hits and took advantage of five Boyd County miscues to win for the 21st time in 27 games.
“It’s a real good day when the whole lineup comes through like that,” Lady Devils coach Dave Wheeler said. “We really didn’t hit the ball with authority, but we had timely hits and mixed in some small ball.”
Boyd County pitcher Haylie Haney, known for a dandy changeup, tried to keep Russell hitters off balance with plenty of offspeed offerings.
“Facing that, as a hitter you want to stay back,” Wheeler said. “We run pretty well and were able to make some things happen.”
The Lady Devils produced four infield hits in addition to Hartman’s fifth-inning bunt single, which led to a pair of runs thanks to two Boyd County errors.
“What bothers me the most about this game is we did not come ready to play,” Boyd County coach Geoff Stewart said. “We had too many mental and physical mistakes. You can’t do that against a good team like Russell. It’s upsetting because we just came off a big win over East Carter (last Tuesday). We have a good team when we’re mentally focused. You can’t just turn it on and off.”
Russell sophomore Haven Layne pitched a complete game for her 14th victory. She scattered 10 singles and walked only one batter.
“Last week, Haven defeated Ashland, Raceland and Greenup County,” Wheeler said. “Tonight, she comes out and beats Boyd County.
You’ve got to give credit where credit is due. Her control was very good. She threw a lot of good 3-1 pitches. You can see her confidence growing every time out.”
Layne also singled twice to join three teammates with multiple hits. Hartman, went 3 for 4 to lead the way. Her two-run, opposite-field double down the right-field line plated two runs in the first.
Hieneman, batting a robust .530 at game time, drilled a run-scoring double to open Russell’s scoring.
She reached on an error in the second and singled to left in the fourth.
“Haylie made a good pitch on Hieneman,” Stewart said of the fourth inning. “The ball was between the knee and ankle. She went down and got it, and hit it for a single.”
Meanwhile, Madison Darnell continued her solid junior season for the Lady Devils with two hits and her 23rd RBI. The basketball standout returned to the softball team this year after concentrating on AAU ball after her sophomore hoops season.
“It feels good to do well in anything,” Darnell said. “I didn’t play (softball) last year. It feels good to be back out there. It took a few games to get my swing back. Our team hits really well overall. The top of the lineup does a good job, and it carries over to the rest of the team.”
Along with swinging a dangerous bat, Darnell tracks the ball well in center field.
“Madison’s had a really good year,” Wheeler said. “She’s a pleasant kid, just a pleasure to be around. The kids were tickled to death when she decided to come back out.”
Russell goes on the road today for a matchup with Ohio power Wheelersburg.
Graci Borders led Boyd County (12-10) with three hits. Her third single loaded the bases with one out in the seventh. Sarah Shavers followed with a sharp single to right field, sending two runners across the plate. However, an umpire ruled that the ball made contact with Borders, resulting in her being called out and the two lead runners having to return to their bases. The next batter flied out to end the game.
Stewart took exception with the ruling.
“I don’t think the ball touched Graci,” Boyd’s coach said. “She said it didn’t hit her. That changed the complexion of the inning. It might not have changed the outcome of the game, but we had a chance for a big inning. That hurt.” Shavers, Maddie Hale and Ashton Rankin each had two hits for the Lady Lions.
“I do have the confidence in my team to bounce back and be ready for the next one,” said Stewart, whose team’s next opponent is Rock Hill.
BOYDCO. 001 001 0—210 5 RUSSELL 410 021 x — 814 1 Haney and McKnight; Layne and Ratliff. W—Layne. L— Haney. 2B—Hieneman (R), Hartman (R).