BY MATTHEW SPARKS
FOR THE DAILY INDEPENDENT
ASHLAND The Russell-Flatwoods 10-12 softball All-Stars left no doubt who was “Rulen” the batter’s box during Friday’s District 6 championship game.
Allison Rulen went 4 for 4 and drove in six runs to set the tone for her team. RFlatwoods cranked out 13 hits in a 14-2 victory over Grayson in four innings at the Ashland Softball Complex. It was their second title in three years.
Jason Rulen, her father and coach, was proud of his team’s approach at the plate. He said his daughter wanted to start in the pitching circle but found a new way to influence the game.
“Allison is usually our No. 1 pitcher,” Jason Rulen said. “She has been working through some pitching troubles lately. In warmups, she just wasn’t ready to go. … Before the game started, I told her she can contribute in a lot of ways. It doesn’t have to be just from pitching. Get that bat out and put it to work. She did that today.”
After quickly falling behind seven runs against Grayson the day before, R-Flatwoods responded with seven early runs in the first two innings on Friday. Rulen’s two singles in the opening frames produced three runs. Josie Atkins had a runscoring hit and Brooke Bloss sent another home with an RBI single.
“It made all the difference in the world getting off on the right foot,” Jason Rulen said. “I asked them to come out swinging and they answered the call. We have had fantastic bats all season and postseason. Once these girls get on base they are hard to stop. They are great baserunners and a fantastic group of girls.”
An illegal pitch was called on the Grayson starter during the second at-bat of the game. After a lengthy conversation on the field, Grayson coach Jim Shelton came away impressed with the way all involved handled the situation.
“They hadn’t called that this week,” Shelton said. “It caught me off-guard. But we handled it the right way. I love the way little league is set up. You discuss it with the umpires and the tournament director. We got it ironed out and we put it behind us and moved forward.”
Graci Criswell earned the victory for R-Flatwoods. She gave up just three hits, struck out four and recorded a 2-for-3 night as a hitter.
“She has stepped up twice in this tournament,” Jason Rulen said. “Graci is only going to get better as she grows confident. If she starts believing in herself as much as we believe in her, she will be a force to be reckon with.”
Grayson scored a run in the third and another in the fourth.
Zoey Rainbolt singled in the third frame and later came home on a groundout. Karsen Prichard had a base hit and scored on a wild pitch in the fourth.
Shelton said he couldn’t imagine a better group of girls to reenergize the little league program in Grayson after a sixyear hiatus.
“They are absolutely amazing one through 13,” Shelton said.
“They have worked hard. I have one girl that plays travel ball and the rest play little league. They strived for this during this week.
They represented Grayson and Grayson Little League like no one else could. They played phenomenal and never quit. I am just proud of them.”
R-Flatwoods tallied seven more runs in the final two innings.
Ava Oneal, Atkins and Rulen each scored three times.
Raegan Osborn and Anna White each scored twice. Haylee Thornsberry contributed an RBI on an infield single.
Jason Rulen congratulated Grayson on their postgame run. He feels R-Flatwoods can construct a similar streak at the state tournament.
“This a great honor,” he said. “A big percentage of this team went to the state tournament as 10-year-olds.
They finished runnerup to Marion County in a close final game.
We are excited to be back and hopefully we can get one or two more runs this year.”
The state tournament will be held in LaGrange starting July 8.
R-FLATWOODS 3452—14131 GRAYSON 001 1 — 2 3 7 Criswell and Thornsberry; Bloemer and Brown. W—Criswell. L—Bloemer. 2B—Rulen (RF).
Russell-Flatwoods’ Raegan Osborn steals second base on a wild throw to Grayson shortstop Kimmie Roberts on Friday at Ashland Softball Complex.
Russell-Flatwoods first baseman Allison Rulen takes a throw against Grayson in the 10-12 District 6 softball championship game Friday at Ashland Softball Complex.
PHOTOS BY KEVIN GOLDY | THE DAILY INDEPENDENT