BY ZACK KLEMME
THE DAILY INDEPENDENT
VANCEBURG Tim Rice is perfectly happy to stop thinking about the Red Devils’ record.
Russell was an up-and-down 14-16 in the regular season. That’s no longer relevant:the Red Devils got a five-hit completegame shutout from Justin Manning and a two-out RBI single from Jacob Funk in the sixth inning Monday. An error on the play let a second Red Devil score, and there’s your final margin of 2-0. Defending district champion Russell will try to defend that titletonight and advances to next week’s region tournament.
“I can’t put it into words how hard they played tonight,” Rice said of the
Red Devils, “how battletested we were. Our record doesn’t show it, but we played some quality teams to prepare us for games like this.”
So did the Rams, who a year after shocking Greenup County in the first round of the district tournament were on the wrong end of a surprise Monday. All “A” Classic state semifinalist Raceland sees its season end on the first night of postseason play.
“Oh yeah, the expectation is a win,” Rams coach Marty Mills said, “but it’s baseball. You know that this time of year, one (elimination) game, it’s just the way it is.”
Greenup Co. vs. Russell, 6 p.m.
Manning’s eighth strikeout retired the final batter of the night. The Rams got a runner on base in every inning except one, but Russell kept them at bay time and again, perhaps most impressively when left fielder Ronan Moore threw a Raceland runner out at home to end the first frame. Rice also credited the long arm of first baseman Chaz Whitt in aiding the Red Devils’ infielders.
Russell didn’t even get a hit off Rams starter Kirk Pence until two outs into the fifth inning. One frame later, Manning singled to lead off, Jacob Thompson was hit by a pitch, and both scored when Funk shot the ball into left field with the bases loaded and two outs.
“That was huge for my confidence on the mound,” Manning said. “I was able to throw pitches maybe that I wouldn’t have thrown (before), because we were up by two runs.”
Pence also went the distance and struck out eight Red Devils.
“That’s a great club,” Rice said of the Rams. “I gotta tip my cap to them as well. It’s sad that one of us has to go home.”
Raceland finishes the year 24-6, one win shy of tying the school singleseason record set in 2006. It nonetheless was a memorable season for the Rams that ended too soon for their taste.
“I can’t be more proud of my seniors,” Mills said. “They’ve come a long way in a lot of regards, not just as ballplayers. ... The season that we’ve had is tremendous. This won’t take anything from that.”