Softball: Reloading Russia off to strong start


VERSAILLES — Russia lost almost an entire field’s worth of players to graduation, but the Raiders still look to be a contender for a Shelby County Athletic League title.

Russia dropped its first game of the year on Friday at Versailles but bounced back with a win over Covington on Saturday and was 4-1 overall entering a league game against defending SCAL champion Anna on Tuesday.

“It’s been a good start to the season so far,” Russia first-year coach Kenleigh Ludlow said. “The girls are working hard. There’s a lot of rebuilding going on, and the girls take all the challenges in stride. They’re really learning how to work together and mesh with each other, and that’s really awesome to see.”

Ludlow, a Fort Loramie native, was head coach at West Liberty-Salem for eight years before moving to Russia three years ago. She was Russia’s JV coach before taking over the head role. She guided the Tigers to three district titles and regional appearances from 2017 to 2019.

Russia lost eight seniors to graduation from last year’s 18-8 campaign, in which the team won its third consecutive district title. Among the losses was two-time SCAL player of the year Makena Hoying, who was the squad’s pitcher.

Ella Phlipot, a junior, has taken over in the circle for the Raiders.

“She’s worked hard, and has worked hard the last two years, too” Ludlow said. “We trust her. She has a great mentality in there. We call her our bulldog; she’s in there and she’s focused. Nothing really rattles her too much. She has a great defense behind her.”

Among the team’s returnees are Saige Hoying, catcher Shay Hammonds, Jaela Shappie and Kori Goubeaux. Hoying has moved from second base to shortstop, and Ludlow said she has transitioned well and is hitting well.

Ludlow said Shappie, who has moved from left field to center field, has transitioned well. She credited her and the rest of the team’s players for leading the squad.

“All of our seniors have stepped up in ways they didn’t have to last year, with a big group of seniors in front of them,” Ludlow said. “That’s been really cool to see.”

The Raiders started the season with a 5-2 win over Jackson Center on March 25 and then beat Fairlawn and Houston 25-0 and 11-3, respectively, in SCAL games over the next week. They led Marion Local 10-4 on March 26 in a nonconference game that was suspended due to weather.

Russia had some costly errors in a 3-0 loss to the Tigers on Friday.

Lauryn Cordonnier reached second on an error by Shappie as she tried to field a fly ball in the second inning. Cordonnier advanced to third on a single by Cassie Leach and scored on a ground out to give the Tigers a 1-0 lead in the second inning.

In the third, Colleen Hiestand drew a walk and advanced to third on a fielding error after a bunt by Lydia Hecht. She scored on a ground out, and Hecht scored on a single by Jenna Dirksen to push the lead to 3-0.

Both teams had four hits. The Raiders committed three errors, while the Tigers (6-0) committed one.

Hiestand struck out nine batters for the Tigers. Phlipot struck out five batters and walked one; all three runs Versailles scored were unearned.

“It didn’t turn out the way we wanted it to tonight, but that’s how softball goes sometimes,” Ludlow said. “We know what we need to do to keep getting better and keep moving on in the season.”

Russia bounced back with a 10-9 win over Covington on Saturday. The Raiders trailed 9-5 but scored five runs in the bottom of the seventh to rally and win.

Shappie was 2 for 3 on Saturday with 3 RBIs while Goubeaux was 2 for 3 and 2 RBIs. Each drew one walk. Emma Dapore drove in the winning run on a ground out.

Covington outhit Russia 14-6, but Russia drew nine walks to the Buccaneers’ three. Phlipot pitched 5 2/3 innings and picked up the win; she gave up five earned runs on 10 hits.

Versailles kept its undefeated start going by beating Fort Loramie 6-2 and 5-0 in a doubleheader on Saturday.

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

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Bryant Billing has been at the Sidney Daily News since 2017. He took over as editor in April of 2024 after working as sports editor for the previous 6.5 years. He worked as a reporter and later as an editor for a weekly newspaper in Springfield from 2007 to 2012, managed a Springfield-based website called from 2012 to 2016 and then worked as a freelancer for Cox Media Group Ohio newspapers (including the Dayton Daily News) from 2016 to 2017 before joining the SDN.

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