Journal-Times (Grayson, KY)

July 24, 2013

One pitch at a time

By MacKenzie Bates - Sports Editor
Journal-Times

July 24, 2013 — East Carter eighth grade softball player Montana Fouts has one favorite pitch.

“A strike,” Fouts said.

While she is clever in her answers, the gun-slinging Fouts stays true to her word in developing pitches for her role in the 2014 season for the Lady Raiders.

“I always think about what I can throw and not the batter,” Fouts said. “Getting a chance to play with older teammates (like on East Carter’s varsity team), it brings out the best in me with competition on the mound and at the plate.”

Fouts is a year-round softball junkie. She plays on two different, top-notch traveling teams, the West Virginia Dusters 14U and Thunder Elite of Youngstown, Oh. Both teams have won several young exposure tournaments.

“We practice five days a week and keep getting better,” Fouts said. “The tournaments that we’ve won over the past year have been great.”

“She’s a next level talent,” Thunder Elite Coach Jeff Steiner said. “I’ve been coaching seven years and she comes around once in a lifetime as a pitcher. She could be a top five pitcher in the country in her age group.”

Fouts’ ability and drive have turned a lot of heads this summer as she fires pitch after pitch across the plate. At one point, a pitch was clocked at 63 miles per hour, which surprised her high school coach, Derek Calhoun.

“She works her butt off and a lot of people are taking notice,” Calhoun said. “She’s very athletic and she works all year round. You can tell the girls who do that, and she pitches just about every day.”

Fouts remembers when she was seven years old, hanging out with a friend when she was introduced to softball. She enjoyed pitching.

“I thought I would like it,” Fouts said. “I was watching a game with my friend and her grandpa gave pitching lessons so I went to that.”

She fell in love with the game and kept at it for great results. Pitching for East last year, Fouts was 10-3 with a 1.41 earned run average while striking out 106 batters for the 24-12 Lady Raiders.

And what is most surprising?

She has five more years in the 16th Region to get better.

“I’ve been working on my riseball,” Fouts said. “I know every pitch but the riseball is working better every day. I just try to make sure I’m doing the same thing every time.

Her pitching coach, Mike Rankin, of South Charleston, Wva., has worked with several players to help their development. His daughter got full scholarship to play college softball as a pitcher. Rankin said Fouts has the drive to get much better than she already is.

“She works so hard,” Rankin said. “She has a great attitude and has great potential. If she keeps working at it she can definitely pitch in college.”

“She’s going to be something special,” Calhoun said. “We will increase her workload as she goes through the program. We’ve got two outstanding pitchers and in a tough situation, we can put her in anytime to help us get a win. It seems like everyday out on that field, she gets better.”

East Carter won the 62nd District for the first time since the 2008 season. Fouts crossed that off her “to-do list” during her short time in Grayson but says there is one goal she wants to reach before leaving high school.

“I want to play for a state title,” Fouts said. “We just need to work harder as a team and I think we can get there.”

For now, Fouts will continue to travel throughout the region and play the game she loves. Her next trip will be with the Thunder Elite. The team will play in the ASA USA Gold Tournament in Chattanooga, Tn., which is one of the biggest tournaments in the country for traveling softball teams.

Mackenzie Bates can be reached at mbates@journal-times.com or by telephone at 1-800-247-6142.