BY MATTHEW SPARKS
FOR THE DAILY INDEPENDENT
FLATWOODS Russell coach Dave Wheeler doesn’t hold back when talking about his team’s hitting prowess.
On Tuesday, the Russell Softball Complex couldn’t hold the two biggest hits of the night for the Lady Devils in their district clash with rival Raceland.
Sara Hieneman belted her 30th career homer and Ali Hartman parked a dinger well over the leftcenter field wall that proved to be the game winner in a 11-10 victory over the Lady Rams.
The Lady Devils collected 13 hits — eight in the third inning alone — and reached the doubledigit run mark for the 15th time this season.
“I couldn’t be more proud with the way we hit the ball,” Wheeler said. “…There at the end when Sara hit that home run, she hit that ball a long way. It gave us some breathing room. Then Ali comes up and works the count to 3-2 and just hits a blast. Ali has homered in almost every district game we’ve had this year.”
Hieneman, Russell’s all-time home run leader, joined an exclusive club with her latest long ball. She now stands in fourth place in region history behind Ashland’s Megan Hensley (31) and McKenzie Vanover (44). Rowan County’s Amber Riddle is the region leader with 55.
“It’s definitely something special,” Hieneman said. “I never go up to the plate to try and hit home runs. I just try to get extended and get base hits to put runners on base and win ball games. It’s definitely cool.”
“She has passed up a lot of good hitters in our region,” Wheeler added. “To go out and hit 30 home runs against good competition says a lot about her ability.”
Hieneman went 3 for 4, adding a pair of doubles with her two RBIs. She also scored twice. Alexis Maynard drove in four runs and had a pair of singles. Hartman added two hits and collected two runs.
Raceland (17-3) took advantage of four bases-loaded walks to score six runs in the third inning and take a 7-2 lead. Chloe Collins tallied a two-run single in the frame, part of her 3-for-4 night at the plate.
“People around the region know who Chloe is,” Raceland coach Shawn Johnson said. “It’s not like it’s a secret. Chloe can hit the softball. She is disciplined at the plate. She does a nice job.” Russell brought out the bats to answer quickly. Six straight hits, including a two-run single from Maynard and a tworun double by Haven Layne, brought five runs home to tie the game at 7-7. “Any deficit we get, we are confident that we can come back and win the ball game,” said Hieneman. Johnson said Russell hit all the right spots in the third. “It seemed like that one inning, they hit it where we weren’t,” Johnson said. “It wasn’t like they were hitting scalded dogs. They had some seeing- eye singles and then we misplayed a ball. … It was just one of those things with two good teams. When you let some chances go by, it’s going to come back and hurt you.”
The lead changed hands five times in the see-saw affair. Russell (19-6) grabbed the advantage with Hieneman’s leadoff blast in the fourth only to see it slip away when the Lady Rams scored two runs in the top of the fifth.
Hieneman’s RBI double and Maynard’s sacrifice fly gave the Lady Devils the lead for the final time in the bottom of the stanza before Hartman sailed a fullcount pitch over the fence in the following frame.
“Ali has really taken off this year,” Wheeler said. “She is really focused. I’ve already had a lot of colleges talk about her. She keeps getting better every day. She is a clutch hitter.”
Layne took the win in relief. Wheeler said his pitcher “battled and has had two really good outings back to back.”
Raceland fell to 2-2 in district seeding games. Russell improved to 4-1 and can lock up the No. 1 seed in the 63rd District with a victory over Greenup County at home on Thursday.
RACELAND 106 020 1—1093 RUSSELL 115 121 x — 1113 1 Austin, West (5) and Curley. Ratliff, Layne (3) and Fraley, Ratliff (3). W—Layne. L—Austin. 2B—Layne (Ru), Hieneman 2 (Ru). HR—Hieneman (Ru), Hartman (Ru).
Russell shortstop Makayla Fraley attempts to turn a double play on Tuesday as she get the out on Raceland's Rylee Austin in Flatwoods. The Lady Devils won, 11-10.
Russell's Sara Hieneman is all smiles as she rounds the bases on Tuesday evening after hitting a home run against Raceland.
PHOTOS BY MARTY CONLEY | FOR THE DAILY INDEPENDENT