Softball: Russia hoping to ‘bring it all together’

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PLEASANT HILL — Russia finished a rough week with two losses on Friday in the Newton Cancer Classic, but the squad is hoping the experience will be beneficial as the home stretch of regular season nears.

The Raiders lost five of six games in a week’s time to drop to 7-6 overall. They fell 14-1 to Versailles in their first game in Newton’s tournament on Friday, then lost 3-1 to Ansonia.

Though Russia coach Kenleigh Ludlow said it was a tough week, the loss came against good competition: Northmont (7-6), Fort Loramie (7-4), St. Henry (5-7), Versailles (8-4) and Ansonia (8-4).

“We had several learning opportunities this week,” Ludlow, who is in her first season, said. “It’s been an experience for us to see who is stepping up in different ways and see how we can learn from one another. Our goal here sooner rather than later is to tie this all together.

“We see all the greatness we’re capable of, but unfortunately right now we’re seeing it in sparks here and there. Bringing it all together soon is the goal. We have been rebuilding and moving girls around. A lot of girls are getting into the game. It’s expected for them to learn, and that’s what we want them to keep doing, working hard.”

Ludlow said the lineup is still being tweaked. Second baseman Addison Shappie moved from the No. 9 to the No. 2 hole this week after going 3 for 3 against the Thunderbolts on Saturday; she was 2 for 4 against St. Henry. Kori Goubeaux, who plays right field, was 3 for 3 with 3 RBIs against the Redskins; she had one home run and one double.

“Everyone has been super flexible and great no matter where we’ve put them in the lineup,” Ludlow said. “Addison moved up and Laci (Phlipot) shifted around in the order; we needed her to do a different job and have a different role. They have both stepped up at the plate to do that. Kori has had a couple of great hitting games this week. The rest of the girls are going to keep working, too.”

It was by far the busiest week of what had been a rainy start to the season, and Ludlow said it was taxing for the squad’s pitchers, who are in the circle on varsity for the first time.

She credited them for battling through and for catcher Shay Hammonds playing well behind the plate. Hammonds was 2 for 3 with 3 RBIs against Fort Loramie.

“She’s got her fair share of innings behind the plate,” Ludlow said. “It’s nice to have that consistency behind the plate when we move different pitchers into the circle. She does a great job of communicating not just with the pitchers but with the coaches and the entire defense, too. That’s been really great.”

Ludlow also said the team’s two seniors, center fielder Jaela Shappie and short stop Saige Hoying, have been doing well putting the ball in play.

The Raiders are scheduled to travel to Fairlawn on Monday and to Botkins on Tuesday for Shelby County Athletic League games.

“It’s just a matter of putting everything together,” Ludlow said. “We’re excited how high they can rise after these learning experiences. We have great expectations for them; we know they’re great players. Putting it all together should be really fun.”

Ansonia scored all three of its runs in the first inning on Friday.

Russia pitcher Ella Phlipot walked Maddie Buckingham and Lillian Kaiser, and Addison Geyer hit a single on a pop fly to shallow right field to drive both across the plate. Another run scored before the end of the inning on an error in the outfield; the Raiders committed two errors in the inning and four in the game.

The Raiders didn’t give up another run the rest of the way. Phlipot pitched a complete game and gave up two earned runs on two hits and four walks while striking out six.

Russia made contact at the plate, but mostly right at Ansonia players. Abby Kramer pitched a complete game and gave up one earned run on two hits and four walks while striking out three.

Jaela Shappie scored Russia’s run in the sixth inning. She drew a walk, moved to second on a sacrifice bunt, moved to third on a wild pitch and scored on a sacrifice fly.

“The first inning is not like how we want to come out and play a ball game,” Ludlow said. “After that, we shut them down. We didn’t respond like we needed to, though. But to see Ella come back from not such a great first inning was huge for her. She did a great job, and Shay did a great job behind the plate. Defensively, we were solid the entire game.”

Versailles, which also beat host Newton 10-3, blew things open against Russia with seven runs in the second inning. The Tigers had 12 hits and committed two errors, while the Raiders had two hits and committed four errors.

Emma Dapore was charged with the loss for Russia, while Colleen Hiestand picked up the win for the Tigers; Hiestand struck out seven batters and didn’t walk any. Jenna Dirksen was 3 for 4 with 2 RBIs; she hit two doubles.

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 TopBillingSports.com 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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