63rd softball final: Ending the district drought: Rams win first crown in six seasons

LLOYD Saturday’s 63rd District championship game started out with both teams struggling to find offense.

Much like the day’s heat, both teams’ defenses were downright oppressive.

But like an oasis in the desert, runs started appearing on the scoreboard just over the midpoint of the contest.

It wasn’t a mirage. Raceland reached its destination, completing a comeback before the opportunity faded into the distance.

“I’m kind of numb right now,” Raceland coach Scott Adkins said with a laugh. “That’s a big win right there. I’ve been here three years and that’s always what we’ve been striving for. We knew it was going to be a dog fight, Greenup is a great team. We just came to play and here we are on top.”

The Rams took down Greenup County, 5-4, to win their first district crown since 2018.

“Both teams played their hearts out,” Greenup County coach Jaclyn Holmes said. “I’m very proud of our girls.”

Raceland had its back against the wall near the end of the game but overcame the pressure and secured the win.

The Musketeers led 4-3 heading into the top of the seventh, giving the Rams one last shot to stay alive.

They did just that.

Peyton Mackie drilled a standup double in the leadoff position to get Raceland rolling.

The Musketeers decided to make a change in the circle, pulling starter Josey Kegley for closer Laiken Cooper.

Cooper came in to close out the Musketeers’ win over Raceland on April 30 to secure the No. 1 seed in the district and was looking for history to repeat itself.

“(It) was sort of an in-the-moment (decision),” Holmes said of making the pitching change. “Obviously, we took it into consideration, and we weighed it. ... Last time it worked, this time it didn’t.”

Cooper forced a fly out from the first batter she faced before Davanna Grubb came to the plate.

Grubb had gone error, pop out, pop out, in her first three at-bats and was looking to get her first hit of the night.

The hit came and it was enough to win the game.

Grubb cranked the ball deep into right field just over the wall. The two-run homer provided the eventual winning runs.

“She’s been a rock all year,” Adkins said. “She was due and eventually it was going to come, and it just happened to come at the right time. It also helped when she went back to the field there. You know that her confidence level was up, and she was ready to go. She’s a great player.”

Nothing came easy in the game, especially in the early going.

In the bottom of the fourth frame, the Musketeers broke through to put the first run on the scoreboard in the scoreless game.

Laela Matthews belted a leadoff double to the center field wall.

That’s when Skyler Lawrence did what she does best, putting her squad up 2-0 after a two-run homer. It was her 13th of the year.

“Skyler’s one of those players that is one in a million,” Holmes said. “She really is and she’s worked her butt off to get where she is. At practice, she’s the exact same way and you can tell that she wants it.”

The long ball seemed to wake up Raceland’s offense.

The Rams started the fifth inning with five straight hits, including a pair of doubles to start the frame from Savannah Ratliff and Shelby Gauze, the latter driving the former home.

The next three hits were singles from Bryna Wellman, Peyton Mackie, and Kali Vance.

Mackie and Vance’s hits produced RBIs, which put the visiting team up 3-2.

The lead only lasted a few at-bats because Greenup County was ready to respond in major fashion once again.

Kegley got on with a well-hit double in the two spot before Adrian Wells stepped to the plate.

Without hesitation, Wells sent one over the center field wall for a two-run home run that put the home team back in front 4-3.

“Adrian’s shot… I mean, whoa,” Holmes said. “That was awesome. It was an awesome moment.”

Unfortunately for the Musketeers, the scoring would end after having no response in the bottom of the seventh to Raceland’s comeback.

Greenup County’s one last chance was dashed by Grubb in the circle, forcing a 1-2-3 inning to close the game.

Holmes hopes the team continues to believe in the mission at hand despite the loss as they head into the region tournament.

“There’s a reason our motto is what it is,” Holmes said, referencing the team’s “We not me” mentality. “I think that they need to understand that we all believe in them and that they can do it.”

Coming out of this win, Adkins thinks that playing in the All-A tournament earlier this season really prepared his crew to be able to handle the pressure felt in these postseason situations.

“We’ll take a light practice tomorrow and then Monday we’ll come out and we’ll be ready to go,” Adkins said. “We adjust. That’s why we played the All “A” this year. It helped us playing those three games on that Saturday. You have to be able to emotionally come out and be prepared. We’ve worked on that all year long.”

RACELAND 000 030 2 — 5 10 0

GREENUP CO. 000 220 0 — 4 4 2

Grubb and Vance; Kegley, Cooper (7) and Steele. W — Grubb . L — Cooper . 2B — Matthews (GC), Ratliff (R), Gauze (R), Kegly (GC), Makie (R). HR – Lawrence (GC), Wells (GC), Grubb (R).