RUSSIA — Russia’s capped off a tough weekend against Central Buckeye Conference squads with a 12-6 loss to Springfield Kenton Ridge on Saturday.
But if the losses to Division I and II schools can help the Raiders during a busy final stretch in regular season, they’ll be worth it according to Russia coach Kevin Philpot.
The Raiders suffered a 12-2 run-rule loss at New Carlisle Tecumseh on Friday and followed with another slow day against the Cougars. The games were both added late in the week — Russia originally had a six-day break on its schedule. The Arrows (9-6) are Div. I, while Kenton Ridge (13-3) is a perennial Div. II power.
“We were scrambling last second and were fortunate enough to get Tecumseh and Kenton Ridge,” Philpot said. “Any game at this point is good, with the weather and as many (cancellations) as every one’s had.
“…We’re always looking to play somebody, even up a level. We’re looking to get better, and the better the competition, the more that can help.”
Russia (11-5, 6-1 Shelby County Athletic League) scored five runs in the sixth to pull within 7-6, thanks in part to four walks and an error by Kenton Ridge. The Cougars responded with five runs on five hits in the seventh to push the margin back up to six.
Kenton Ridge had 15 hits and three errors, while Russia had three hits and four errors.
The Raiders didn’t manage a hit against Kenton Ridge’s Jordan Ward until the fifth inning — though they took a 1-0 lead in the second after a walk and a hit batter.
Hunter Cohee pitched the first two innings for Russia, and Daniel Kearns was brought on in the third. Kenton Ridge scored three runs on three hits in the third against Kearns to take the lead. The Cougars added four runs on three hits in the fifth to take a 7-1 lead.
Ward ran out of gas in the sixth, and Russia rallied. The Raiders got two hits in the inning and took advantage of four walks and an error to pull within one. Russia stranded a runner on third when the Cougars got the last out.
“We didn’t have the hits throughout the game, but we had chances with guys on base,” Philpot said. “We just weren’t able to get a few early. …We put together a bunch of good at-bats when (Ward) was struggling and getting up in his pitch count. We were patient at the plate, got the guys on and made some things happen. We battled.”
Kenton Ridge had four singles and a double in the seventh — all hits to the outfield — to re-take control.
The Raiders are 6-1 in SCAL play and have a big league game on Monday at Anna (10-6, 7-1 SCAL). The Rockets beat Russia 5-1 on April 5.
“We saw some good pitching (against Tecumseh and Kenton Ridge), and that’s what we want with that big game Monday,” Philpot said. “It was a perfect opportunity for us to get some good at-bats in and have that carry over to Monday.”
Russia had four errors in its first matchup with Anna and had two hits against Zach White, who had seven strikeouts in seven innings.
“We struggled on defense and gave them a few runs early, so we were playing from behind the whole way,” Philpot said. “We struggled the whole way getting anything against (White) — he did a great job of keeping the ball down, and we just struggled getting many scoring opportunities.
“If they throw White at us again, we’ve got to have the same approach — just be patient in the zone. We just can’t miss many scoring opportunities. We’re not the greatest offensive team, so we’ve just have to get the bunt down when it’s called upon. With guys in scoring position, we’ve got to put the ball in play and can’t take strikeouts.”
Monday’s game will be the start of a busy week for Russia. The Raiders host Houston on Tuesday, Botkins on Thursday and Versailles on Friday. They will wrap up the week by playing in the Lima Showcase on Saturday.
Reach Bryant Billing at 937-538-4818, or follow @SidneyOHSports on Twitter and @BryantBillingSDN on Facebook.