BY RAY SCHAEFER
FOR THE DAILY INDEPENDENT
GRAYSON Russell’s 15-17 record?
The Red Devils were two games under .500 Monday, but they didn’t play like it. A four and six-run rally ejected East Carter, 13-2 in six innings, from the 16th Region Tournament at J. P. Kouns Field.
Next: defending champion Rowan County (an 8-0 winner over Ashland) in Wednesday’s semifinals at 5:30 p.m.
“I’m just trying to take it one game at a time,” Russell senior pitcher Cole Cordle said. “I’m trying to savor every moment with my team.”
There was much to extol.
Much of Russell’s offense was nice: shortstop Casey Hensley went 3 for 3 with a double, two runs batted in and three runs scored; first baseman Chaz Whitt, 2 for 3 with three RBIs; and catcher Grant Wilburn, 2 for 2, an RBI and two runs scored.
Cordle’s contribution on the mound was possibly critical. After allowing two runs in the first inning, he surrendered only one more hit — Ethan Napier’s infield single in the second — the rest of the way; and just one walk to accompany four strikeouts. He described his pitching strategy as “low and out.”
“Usually against East Carter we wanna work in, but a lot of the calls weren’t going our way, so we had to try to work the outside corner and
try to keep it out of their reach,” Cordle said.
You could describe Russell’s first-inning fireworks as sparklersmall. Whitt singled home Hensley, one of three base knocks.
East Carter’s (9-23) two runs in the first, meanwhile, were a little larger, kind of like medium- sized bottle rockets. Trey Scott’s solo home run easily cleared the right-field fence, and Caden McDavid’s single sent Trey Cline plateward.
Russell coach Tim Rice wanted Cordle to throttle down.
“Big game, and he was out there trying to rush himself a little bit and missin’ up,” Rice said. “Usually, when you rush yourself, your body’s way out ahead, and the arm drags and leaves the pitch up.”
Cordle had early control issues, which he attributed to celebratory sleep deprivation.
“I still think I was a little tired from early morning. … I don’t think I got a lot of sleep,” he said. “Family’s in for graduation and stuff,
so I’m trying to spend time with them.”
The rest of the game, Russell (16-17) released the baseball equivalent of massive munitions you’d see at Thunder over Louisville.
In the third, the Red Devils scored four runs, led by Hensley’s two-run double, which scored Jacob Thompson and Ronan Moore. Hensley scored on Whitt’s grounder, and Jacob Funk’s scored on Grant Wilburn’s single.
In the sixth — the grand finale: four singles (including a two-run knock from Cordle), four walks and six runs. Ten batters went to the plate.
Cordle, meanwhile, drowned the East Carter offense like a firefighter would dunk used firecrackers in 100 gallons of water. From the third inning only one ball, Scott’s fly to right field, left the infield, and Lucas Young was the Raiders’ only other baserunner, drawing a walk in the third.
“First of all, I think you’ve got to credit Russell because I think obviously they were the better team on the field,” East Carter coach Jeremiah Shearer said.
RUSSELL 104 026 0—13130 E.CARTER 200 000 0 — 2 30 Cordle, Jenkins (6) and Wilburn; Mc-David, Scott (3), Graber (6), Wells (6) and Young. W—Cordle. L—McDavid. 2B— Hensley (R). HR—Scott (EC).