Rice aids the Raid: Junior records 14Ks, leads East over Kittens

ASHLAND East Carter’s Payton Rice wouldn’t make anything easy for Ashland.

The Raiders’ pitcher was a menace to deal with all night for the Kittens, recording 14 strikeouts and giving up just two hits late in the contest on Wednesday.

“She did a great job,” East Carter coach Derek Calhoun said. “She hit her spots and kept them off balance all night, and Ashland is a well-coached ball team. You’ll get everything they’ve got every time out here.”

The stellar performance from the circle went a long way in leading East Carter over Ashland, 5-2.

“It’s hard to do anything against 14 strikeouts,” Ashland coach Scott Ingram said. “She’s a great pitcher who pitched a good game. We just have to be better than that against her. We never made adjustments and she kept doing her thing. We had two hits and 14 strikeouts, that’s not going to win a lot of ball games.”

The Raiders turned an Ashland mistake into a run early.

Payton Rice reached on a dropped strike three and rounded to second on a passing error to first.

Trina Porter then hit a dribbler down the third base line that she ran out to reach safely and drove in Rice for the first run of the game.

East Carter looked to carry that momentum into the second inning, starting the frame with back-to-back singles.

The Kittens got themselves out of the jam with a double play, catching Stephany Tussey before she could tag back up at first following a pop out by Hayleigh Hall.

On the flip side, East Carter wasn’t giving an inch defensively due to Rice.

The Raiders’ gunslinger had seven strikeouts in the first three innings with no hits and just one walk.

In the top of the fourth, Porter got another single, this time in the leadoff position, and was replaced on the bag by courtesy runner Jenna Goble.

Goble made her way to third after a shot from Emily Biddle and proceeded to steal home after a passed ball to take a 2-0 lead.

East Carter again threatened to score in the top of the fifth when Laken Knipp tried to steal home, but Brooklyn Duckwyler was able to tag her out at the plate.

The Kittens turned the Raiders away without a run and finally broke through on the scoreboard in the bottom of the fifth inning.

Ashley Ingram, who reached on a walk, was brought home with an error off the bat of Duckwyler.

“We made a few mistakes, but we never got down,” Calhoun said. “We’re still a young team in general, but this team doesn’t have those mental letdowns. Every time they scored, we came back and put the runs back up there.”

East Carter responded to that run in the top of the sixth, doubling its score to take a 4-0 lead.

The two Raiders runs came on RBI singles from Emily Biddle and Hall. A standup double from Adriana Cordle helped out the offensive outburst.

“We concentrated over the winter about our at-bats,” Calhoun said. “We don’t strike out a lot, we put the ball in play. If we put it in play, good things happen.”

Ashland finally got its first hit of the game from Alauna Troxler which put Jenna Delaney in position to take home off a throwing error to second base.

“We had a hard time stringing anything together,” Ingram said. “It felt like we only had a couple of opportunities and we couldn’t take advantage of them. We have to be better than that.”

East Carter tacked one more run on in the top of the seventh courtesy of an RBI single from Cordle.

Down 5-2, Ashland managed another hit from Duckwyler but that’s all the home team could manage. Rice collected her 13th and 14th strikeouts to close the game.

“I just want these girls to be patient,” Calhoun said. “We’re going to make mistakes and have bad at-bats. You just can’t let that ruin the rest of your game. This region’s going to be a dogfight in a couple of weeks. We’re trying to get ready for it with this schedule late.”

Ingram understands his team is young, but knows the time to grow and gain experience rapidly dissipates as the postseason looms.

“It’s not getting any easier,” Ingram said. “We saw some strikeouts today and once that happened we lost confidence. We’re still learning, but it’s getting late. We better figure it out quickly.”

Along with the 14 Ks, Rice finished the game with 75 strikes on 131 pitches and gave up just one earned run.

In addition to Rice, Porter reached all four times she was at bat. She recorded three singles, including an RBI, and an intentional walk.

E. CARTER 100 102 1 — 5 13 2

ASHLAND 000 011 0 — 2 2 3

Rice and Porter; Laine and Duckwyler. W — Rice. L — Laine. 2B — Cordle (EC).