East Carter got lengthy exposure to the losers’ bracket of the KHSAA Softball State Tournament last year. It’d rather avoid that slog this season.
The Raiders got off to a good start in that regard, pounding Collins 9-0 for their first winners’ bracket victory in program history. Last year’s trip to Owensboro was the first for the school.
Coach Derek Calhoun could tell his squad, which didn’t include a senior a year ago and has only two this season, was much more at ease during the bus ride to Owensboro on Thursday morning than it was in 2016. The Raiders (34-3) lost their opening-round game to East Jessamine — their first loss of the season — but went on to win three straight losers’ bracket games before being eliminated the next day.
“Last year we weren’t ready for it and we didn’t know what to expect,” Calhoun said. “None of the girls had ever been here before and it was kind of like deer in the headlights.
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“Today they were focused, listening to music and singing on the way over. They were a lot more relaxed because they knew what was coming,” Calhoun said. “This is a tough atmosphere to play in. You wouldn’t really think it, but you might look around the fence and have 2,000 people watching. We may lucky to get 250 for a home game, so it’s a little different.”
Montana Fouts, a junior who’s committed to the University of Alabama, struck out 13 batters while giving up just one hit and a walk. She drove in a game-high three runs, two coming on a two-run homer to center field that extended the Raiders’ lead to 6-0 in the top of the seventh inning.
The game was scoreless through four innings. Cara Layne reached on an error and Taylor Jackson was hit by a pitch to lead off the fifth. Gracie Robinson flied out before Eden Mayo singled to score the first run of the game. Fouts added another on a sac fly and Madison Sparks doubled to put East Carter up 3-0 before a grounder finished the frame.
Mayo, also a junior, finished 2-for-4 with two RBI. She felt it was crucial for her to come up with that RBI in the fifth to give Fouts a lead to work with.
“It took us a minute to get a hit, but it’s all right, you get seven innings. You get more than one at-bat most of the time,” Mayo said with a laugh.
East Carter will play South Warren at 9 a.m. (CST) Friday morning. If it wins that game it’ll move on to the winners’ bracket semifinals at 3 p.m.
“We realized that you have to win at least the first three games unless you want to play all day,” Fouts said. “I think we’re gonna go into every game thinking that it could be our last because it’s really hard to come back from losing a game. So we’re just gonna come and pretend that every game’s our last.”