Fouts returns home: Raiders celebrate impact, success of former pitcher

Apr. 25—GRAYSON — Montana Fouts made an indelible impact on the East Carter softball program when she commanded the circle for the Raiders.

Fouts helped lead East Carter to its first-ever 16th Region Championship in her sophomore year, before making it a three-peat by the end of her senior season.

Along the way, Fouts racked up a laundry list of accomplishments and records.

She was the 2018 Miss Kentucky Softball, a three-time Kentucky Gatorade Player of the Year, Max Preps' 2018 National Player of the Year, a four-time All-USA first-team member and was named The Daily Independent's Tony Curnutte Memorial Female Sportsman of the Year in 2018.

The records she currently holds in KHSAA are just as numerous.

She has the lowest ERA ever in a season with a 0.09 in 2018. Fouts is tied with herself for second on that list with .16 in her 2014 and 2015 seasons. She has the most career strikeouts, career perfect games and career wins. During her final high school campaign, she holds the most no-hitters in a season (14), most shutouts (31) and is tied for most consecutive wins in a season with 32.

Fouts built a legacy for herself at East Carter through seven seasons of hard work, determination, and an unbelievable skillset.

On Tuesday, the Raiders ensured that Fouts' legacy would be visible at every home game moving forward by building something of their own.

They retired Fouts' No. 14 with a red and blue sign above the right field fence, honoring the hometown hero.

"I'm so appreciative of it," Fouts said. "It's something that they obviously don't have to do, so I'm grateful for them taking the time to do it. It's just an honor to be here. This place holds a special place in my heart."

East Carter coach Derek Calhoun, who was Fouts' skipper all through her run with the Raiders, was glad Fouts could have this moment.

"I just a very special moment for an outstanding kid," Calhoun said. "She put her stamp on East Carter softball. But even off the field, in the classroom, she's just an upstanding kid to have around the program."

After high school, Fouts went on to play at Alabama.

While with the Crimson Tide, Fouts was named the 2021 SEC Pitcher of the Year and the 2021 SEC Tournament Most Valuable Player. She was a four-time All-American and pitched the fifth-ever perfect game in the women's College World Series, the first since 2000.

Fouts said the feeling of family she had at East Carter was something she felt at Alabama and was a determining factor in her decision to play there.

"The No. 1 thing was the family atmosphere," Fouts said. "I knew that's where I wanted to go to school and play. I wanted a place that felt like family and that's what it was for me. It was a second home for me, and was really my first home for five years."

Calhoun says it's Fouts's work ethic that got her where she is today.

"It's a staple of her," Calhoun said. "She always puts in six and seven-day weeks of working on her craft. She gets better every day."

Calhoun also says that dedication to hard work is noticed by the athletes in the community, especially the players on his team.

"They were probably playing little league as young kids when she was coming up," Calhoun said. "They were at a lot of her ball games and saw her grow into the young lady she's become."

Stephany Tussey was one of those young athletes at Fouts' games back then. The Raiders pitcher is grateful to have had someone to look up to like Fouts.

"When I was younger, playing little league and middle school, seeing her always inspired me," Tussey said. "She inspired me to be a better pitcher and to be a better person. It's a big deal to have her come back for this."

Before Fouts threw out the ceremonial first pitch for the game, she was surrounded by a sea of smiling faces in uniforms as the team prepared to face South Point.

Fouts had some words of advice for the current Raiders, chiefly to appreciate the time they spend in the red and blue uniforms.

"My advice to them would be to just soak it all in because it goes by really fast," Fouts said. "These girls you play with are going to be friends that'll be with you for the rest of your life. Enjoy this time with them."

And when it comes to the game itself, Fouts said players should expect to come up short, but not dwell on those moments.

"Just know that failure will come." Fouts said. "I feel like at certain points, especially in middle school, you always feel like failure is the worst thing that could happen to you. You wear your heart on your sleeve but don't let it eat you alive. Give it the best you've got and keep going."

Seeing where softball has taken Fouts gives Tussey something to aim for herself.

"It really puts the hard work and long days I put in into perspective," Tussey said. "I feel like what she's been able to accomplish gives me a finish line to strive for."

With only one senior on the current team, Tussey has taken a role as a leader on the squad. It's a role that Calhoun says Fouts personified.

"She would always push the kids to be better," Calhoun said. "If she thought they could be better, she'd be the first one to tell them. She was an outstanding leader for this program. She was friends with all of her teammates, didn't matter if they were the best player or one with the least experience, she was a friend to them."

The memories that Fouts made with those friends are incalculable, but she says the memories at the top of the list are those of taking the region crown.

"We were really fortunate to go to the state tournament my last three years," Fouts said. "Any time that we won the region was a great memory. For sure, the first and the last time because your senior year is special, but the first time we went, my sophomore year, it definitely meant a lot to us in the program because we had never done it before, and we were all really close. I'm so grateful to be part of a team that did that."

Fouts is eyeing a gold medal. She already has one from the U19 Women's World Cup in 2019, the World Games in 2022, and the Pan-American Games on Nov. 5, but would love to cap it off with some Olympic gold.

"They just put softball back in the Olympics for 2028 along with baseball," Fouts said. "It's just awesome for the sport. I'm really looking forward to preparing for that and hopefully, be one of the names on the list when they call it in 2028. So that's my goal for the immediate future. and I love doing camps and all skills clinics and pitching lessons. I love helping out my pitchers in this area and I love putting on camps and just traveling."

Calhoun summed up the thoughts of most in attendance Tuesday when it comes to what lies ahead for Fouts.

"I'm hoping we get to see her play a lot more softball here in the future," Calhoun said.

Fouts' No. 14 was the first to be retired in the East Carter program.

East Carter celebrated its special night with a win over South Point. It seemed appropriate that the two teams combined for 14 runs after the 12-2 victory.

(606) 326-2658