Softball: Russia hopes third time is the charm in regionals


MIAMISBURG — Russia won a district championship for the first time two years ago and was drubbed in a regional semifinal. The team earned a second straight regional berth last year, then won a semifinal and lost a hard-fought game to Bradford in a regional final.

The Raiders are hoping to take the last step toward a state berth this year by winning a regional championship.

Russia beat Southeastern 4-3 in eight innings to capture its third consecutive Division IV district championship and regional berth on Friday at Miamisburg High School. The Raiders (18-7) are scheduled to face Parkway (19-5) at 5 p.m. on Wednesday in a regional semi at Northmont High School.

“We know from this point on, you have to show up every game,” Russia coach Michelle Muhlenkamp said. “You can’t let (errors or mistakes) snowball. But I think (our players) know that. They’ve been here and done that. They know what it takes. And they said after the game, ‘We need to have two really good days of practice (before the regional).’ I didn’t even have to say it.”

Russia lost four seniors to graduation off last year’s team and started a bit slow. The squad dropped to 8-4 with a nonconference loss at Northmont on April 15.

But the team has won 10 of its last 13, including a seven-run win over Parkway.

Russia has eight seniors on the roster, and Muhlenkamp said their experience has helped the squad improve as the season has progressed. She also credited them for great chemistry.

“They’re focused, but they’re having fun,” Muhlenkamp said. “You can hear our dugout. It’s crazy, insane loud. That’s part of the focus.”

Senior pitcher Makena Hoying has an ERA of about 2.50. She has struck out over 120 batters in about 140 innings of work. She has a variety of movement pitches, and Muhlenkamp said she’s keeping hitters off balance.

“It’s a matter of trusting herself now,” Muhlenkamp said. “… We’ve convinced her that her movement pitches are great, but you still have to be able to come back with that change up or hit a spot with a fastball. She’s really bought into that.”

Hoying has a .355 batting average and .435 on-base percentage. Leadoff hitter Reese Goubeaux, a senior outfielder, has a .391 average. Senior infielder Cece Borchers has a .344 average and .449 on-base percentage. Saige Hoying, a sophomore infielder, has a team-best .421 average and .471 on-base percentage.

Russia stranded runners in the first and second innings on Friday. They pushed across their first runs in the fourth.

Makena Hoying led off with a double on a line drive to center field, then Kelby Doseck hit a ground ball to Southeastern shortstop Ella McCombs and reached on an error. Kori Goubueax, who entered as a courtesy runner for Hoying, scored on the error to give the squad a 1-0 lead.

Saige Hoying hit a fly out, but Borchers then drew a walk. Shay Hammonds then hit a line-drive single to left to load the bases, then Audrey Stickel hit a fielder’s choice grounder to third, which drove in one run to increase the lead to 2-0.

The Trojans tied it up in the bottom half. Allie Lewis hit a ground ball single in the infield, then Kaylee Wells hit a ground ball to Borchers at third base and reached on an error.

The next two batters hit into routine outs, but Makenna Morgan hit a ground ball to third and reached after a throw flew by the first baseman. Two runs scored on the error to tie it 2-2.

The teams both stranded one runner apiece in the fifth. Russia stranded one in the sixth, then stranded two with one out in the seventh after Southeastern turned an inning-ending double play.

The Raiders didn’t waste a chance in the eighth.

Doseck hit a single on an infield grounder, then Saige Hoying hit a single on a line drive to left. Borchers hit a sacrifice bunt, then Hammonds hit a ground out that pushed across one run.

Goubeaux then hit a double to left to drive in another run and give Russia a 4-2 lead.

The Trojans battled back in the bottom half.

McCombs hit a single on a hard grounder to center, then Lewis hit a bunt single. Kaylee Wells hit a single on a fly to center to drive in one run and cut the gap to 4-3.

Reese Wells hit a ground ball single to short, which appeared to load the bases. But Russia appealed, saying Lewis interfered with Russia shortstop Simone Puthoff while advancing to third.

The umpires huddled, and after about a two-minute conversation, they ruled Lewis out.

“It’s definitely an interference call,” Muhlenkamp said. “It’s close, for sure, but I think that Simone having to slow up there, it’s interference. I’m glad the umpires got together and talked about it. That is a tough call and a big moment in the game.”

Hoying struck out Katie Tehan for the second out, then Morgan hit a line drive right to Saige Hoying at second base, who nabbed the ball to end it.

The Raiders finished with 11 hits and committed two errors, while Southeastern had seven hits and committed one error.

Reese Wells gave up three earned runs in eight innings in the circle; she walked two batters and struck out three.

Hammonds was 2 for 3 with one walk while Reese Goubeaux, Makena Hoying and Saige Hoying were each 2 for 4. Kori Goubeaux was 1 for 2 with one double; Makena Hoying also hit one double.

Makena Hoying gave up one earned run in eight innings; she walked one batter and struck out six.

It was the second straight year Russia beat Southeastern in a district final; the Raiders won 8-3 last year.

Southeastern lost most of its squad to graduation last year and relied heavily on underclassmen, including the Wells twins, who are both freshmen. The Trojans, which won the Ohio Heritage Conference South Division, finish 15-7 overall.

“We talked today that Southeastern is a good team, and they’re young,” Muhlenkamp said. “So that was the edge we were hoping to have maybe. We’ve been here, and we know what it feels like to have our backs against the wall. We needed to just trust all the years of ball we’ve played, coming into today. I think that’s what we did.”

The Raiders will try to advance to their second consecutive regional final by beating an opponent for the second time in one month.

It wasn’t long ago Russia and Parkway faced off. The Raiders beat the Panthers 14-7 in a nonconference game on May 5.

Parkway scored three runs in each the first and second innings, but Russia tied it in the fourth and trailed 7-6 before exploding for eight runs in the sixth.

The Raiders had eight hits and drew three walks off Parkway pitcher Meg Henkle, who gave up 10 earned runs. The Panthers committed four errors, as did Russia.

Russia finished with 12 hits, while Parkway finished with seven.

“Parkway’s a good team,” Muhlenkamp said. “The score was not realistic to what they are. They are a good ball team. So I just think a big thing coming in there is having a loud dugout and being focused.”

Riverside earns 1st regional berth since 2017

Stellar pitching by Riverside senior Alaina Snow has led Riverside to its first regional berth since 2017.

The Pirates scored a run in the seventh to force extra innings, then scored a run in the 10th to beat Fort Loramie 2-1 on Friday at Newton High School.

Snow allowed one earned run on eight hits and one walk on Friday and struck out 12 batters. She has a TRC-best 170 strikeouts this year in 119 2/3 innings of work. She has a 2.11 ERA, but has recorded some of her best games this season in the last two weeks.

Snow gave up three hits and struck out 11 batters in a 4-1 district semifinal win over Ansonia on Tuesday and gave up two hits and struck out nine in a 2-0 sectional final win over Bradford on May 11.

Senior shortstop Jade Copas has a team-best .470 batting average and 20 RBIs. Freshman infielder and pitcher Riley Dillion has a .375 batting average and has hit four home runs. Snow has a .392 batting average and 19 RBIs.

Fort Loramie took a 1-0 lead in the fourth on Friday. Ava Turner hit a bunt single with one out, stole second, advanced to third on a dropped third strike and scored on a passed ball.

The Pirates came alive at the plate in the bottom of the seventh. Aubree Huston, a sophomore catcher, hit a double to center with one out, then Kaitlyn Schlumbohm hit a ground ball single to first. Copas drove in one run on a sacrifice flyout to left.

Claire Hoying hit a single on a hard ground ball to left in the eighth. Alex Rose was put in as a courtesy runner, and Turner then hit a bunt and beat the throw to first. But Riverside first baseman Zoie Armbruster threw out Rose as she was trying to advance to third.

Huston then threw out Turner as she was trying to steal second — one of four runners she threw out in the game.

Snow struck out Maya Dues to end the inning.

Fort Loramie stranded one in the ninth and 10th innings, and Riverside stranded one in the ninth. The Pirates ended the game in the bottom of the 10th.

Copas led off the inning with a line-drive single to right field. After Snow hit a fly out, Dillion was hit by a pitch. Armbruster then hit a double to center, which pushed Copas across home plate for the winning run.

Riverside had nine hits and didn’t commit an error. Fort Loramie had eight hits and committed two errors.

The Redskins finished with a 16-14 overall record; they finished third in SCAL play behind Anna and Russia. It was the second consecutive district final berth for Fort Loramie, which will lose seven seniors to graduation.

Riverside will face Three Rivers Conference rival Covington in a regional semifinal at 2 p.m. on Wednesday at Northmont.

Covington (27-4) has won 12 of its last 13 games, including an 18-5 win over the Pirates on a makeup game on Monday in De Graff. The Buccaneers slammed 18 hits off Dillon. They beat Riverside 10-2 on April 11 and had eight hits off Snow, who gave up four earned runs.

Covington, which lost 4-3 to Russia on April 8, tied with Miami East (18-6) for the TRC title. The squads both had 12-2 records. Milton-Union (14-8, 11-3) finished third while the Pirates finished fourth; Riverside had an 8-6 league record.

The Pirates are one of three TRC teams to earn a regional berth. Aside from Covington, Miami East also won a district title. The Vikings rallied to beat Waynesville 8-7 in a Div. III district final on Thursday; they’re scheduled to face Carlisle in a regional semifinal on Wednesday at Centerville.

Contact Bryant Billing at (937) 538-4818, or follow @SidneyOHSports on Twitter and @BryantBillingSDN on Facebook.

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