By Bryant Billing
RUSSIA — With a Shelby County Athletic League game on the line and two runners on base, Russia senior Kylee Sherman didn’t let a pitch down the middle go to waste.
Sherman hit a three-run home run in the bottom of the ninth to boost Russia to a 10-8 win over Anna in a wild, back-and-forth SCAL game on Thursday.
Riley Osborn hit a solo home run to left field in the top of the ninth to give the Rockets an 8-7 lead. Anna didn’t come up with an out in the bottom half, though.
Leadoff hitter Lexi Monnin hit a single to start the Raiders in the ninth, then Lauren Monnin drew a walk to set up Sherman. Sherman hit a home run over the right field fence to end the game.
“It was actually right down the center for me,” Sherman said. “Normally, you don’t get that from a pitcher like (Anna’s Elaina Crosson), but it just happened to be right there for me.”
The teams came up with a combined 23 hits and drew several walks apiece. There were several key defensive plays on hard hits as well, including a diving catch by Anna left fielder Carey White.
Anna scored five runs in the fifth to take a 6-3 lead, and Russia responded with two in the bottom of the inning. A couple of miscues in base running cost the Raiders some runs in the fifth, and they stranded a potential game-winning runner in the seventh.
“For our mistakes, I just had this gut feeling tonight when these girls came up that they were going to get it done,” Russia coach Michelle Muhlenkamp said. “… I knew we were going to get it done tonight. I was very confident in that. Their hard work is paying off. Defense wasn’t the best tonight — we can definitely play some better D behind our pitcher. But they picked it up behind the bats.”
Russia senior pitcher Grace Saunders, who was a first team all-SCAL selection last year, had seven strikeouts and was 3 for 3 at the plate with 5 RBIs and two walks.
With two outs in the seventh, Saunders hit a two-run home run to center field to tie it 7-7.
“When Grace came up, I just had this feeling something good was going to happen,” Muhlenkamp said. “She’s been working really hard on her swing, and I knew we were going to get it done tonight.
“… Hats off to Anna’s outfield, which was incredible. We had some girls hitting the ball hard, and they weren’t falling for us. We didn’t let that get us down. He just kept going up there and hacking at swings.”
Claudia Counts was 3 for 4 for Russia with 2 RBIs, while Lexi and Lauren Monnin were each 2 for 3 and combined for three walks. Sherman, the No. 3 hitter, also had a single in the third.
Olivia Place was 3 for 5 for Anna (3-2). The Rockets had 11 hits.
Russia (3-1, 2-0 SCAL) remains undefeated in the league with the win while Anna drops to 2-1.
It’s a win that could go a long way in helping the Raiders finish as SCAL champs for a third consecutive season. Russia won the league with a 12-0 record last year.
“I told them tonight that this was a big night,” Muhlenkamp said. “Anna’s always competitive and so scrappy. The big thing for us is Anna’s going to show up next time fighting hard. We’ve got to be ready to go every night.”
The teams will meet again on April 30 in Anna.
For now, Sherman said the team is pleased with its start to the season.
“We’ve just got to keep the momentum going and not do any rollercoastering this season,” Sherman said.
The Raiders are scheduled to play next at home on Saturday against perennial Cross County Conference power Covington. Anna will travel to New Bremen for a nonconference doubleheader on Saturday.