East Carter Coach Derek Calhoun wants his softball program to become a force to be reckoned with across the state. The Raiders are responding to that call.
At 28-0 after Monday’s game at Greenup County, East Carter is Kentucky’s only remaining undefeated team in either baseball or softball. After Greenup, the Raiders come to Henry Clay on Tuesday before on Thursday hosting Boyd County — at whose hands they suffered their last loss, 1-0 in the 16th Region semifinals a year ago. They won at Boyd County, 1-0, on April 21.
Greenwood became the state’s first softball team to run the table after going 44-0 in 2013. The Gators, who ranked fifth in all-time wins entering the season and have won three state titles, are a program steeped in tradition. Just reaching the state tournament would be monumental for East Carter, which has not been in the 21-year history of fast-pitch in Kentucky.
“I tell the girls, ‘You play the game to be the best,’” Calhoun said. “You want to come out and be that team that everybody on their schedule says, ‘Wow, we know what we’re gonna get when we play them. If we don’t play well, it’s gonna be a long day for us.’ That’s what we wanna do.”
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Calhoun thinks his girls have captured the attention of the state. He confesses that their strength of schedule doesn’t rank with the likes of well-established powers like McCracken County and Scott County, but in addition to Boyd County it includes wins over Russell and talented West Virginia teams from Huntington and Spring Valley.
I tell the girls, ‘You play the game to be the best.’ You want to come out and be that team that everybody on their schedule says, ‘Wow, we know what we’re gonna get when we play them. If we don’t play well, it’s gonna be a long day for us.’ That’s what we wanna do.
Derek Calhoun, East Carter coach
Perhaps East Carter’s most impressive victory came on May 5, when it upended seven-time defending 16th Region champion Ashland Blazer 2-1.
“Ashland’s dominated this area for seven straight years and they’re still good,” Calhoun said. “They’ve still got a shot to win it again this year. … The region tournament’s gonna be a fight.”
That’s a fight East Carter hopes to win. The play of Montana Fouts will be a big factor in how that plays out. The sophomore pitcher has already committed to Alabama and will contend for Miss Softball honors in 2018. She’s already matched the KHSAA record for no-hitters in a single season (12) and has thrown nine perfect games in 2016, the most recent coming against Johnson Central on Wednesday.
Fouts is as exceptional in the classroom as she is on the mound, according to Calhoun.
“She’s a once-in-a-liftetime player,” he said. “You don’t get those coming through here very often.”
Her bat isn’t bad, either: She’s hitting .530 this season. Her fielding ability is “very good” too. For such a young player, Fouts has been a model leader in all respects, Calhoun said.
“A lot of people look up to her,” he said. “I sure do. Alabama’s getting a gem. I look forward to being able to watch her on TV and say, ‘Hey, I got to coach that girl.’ That’s gonna be an honor.”
Fouts isn’t the lone sophomore standout for East Carter, whose roster is rife with underclassmen. Eden Mayo, Gracie Robinson and Madison Sparks are all sophomores in the Raiders’ strong defensive infield: The team has given up just eight runs the entire season. Youngsters Lindsay Holmes, Abbie Jackson and Taylor Jackson patrol the outfield; the Jacksons are sophomores while Holmes is just a freshman.
There are no seniors and just three juniors in the program. Among the “elder” Raiders is Laura Green, who’s played in only a third of East Carter’s games this season because of a wrist injury. Calhoun hopes to have the Alice Lloyd commitment back by the region tournament.
Regardless of how 2016 ends, it would seem East Carter is poised to be a player for the next couple of seasons. The team is in talks to play in Woodford County’s Beast of the East tournament next season and is trying to make plans with other powers like McCracken County, Scott County and East Jessamine. Being the best requires playing the best, Calhoun said.
“They’re very good right now,” he said, “but they can only get better. It’s gonna be a fun two or three years for us here, that’s for sure.”