12U All Stars win two before falling in SE Region
The tough and talented hometown Marshall County 12U All-Stars were cruising along at the Babe Ruth Southeast Regional Tournament in Lewisburg, scoring consecutive blowout wins over Madison County, North Carolina (17-1) and New Kent, Virginia (13-1) before suffering a gut wrenching 7-4 loss to defending champion Altamonte Springs, Florida in their third and final pool game.
The Altamonte Springs loss was an especially tough pill to swallow as manager Danny Hollingsworth's squad uncharacteristically, started sloppily on defense by allowing four unearned first inning runs and would try to chip away at the lead, but could not mount the big inning they had become accustomed to in the first two games.
"I don't think they were affected by last night's loss," said manger Danny Hollingsworth after the Pitt County loss. "They were pumped up this morning and were in good spirits."
In the semifinal, Pitt County put together two huge innings, scoring six times in the second as the first five hitters in the inning all reached base without a ball leaving the infield in a 'small ball' attack.
Hollingsworth said about the strategy, "We talked about it and worked on it in practice. We worked on all the bunt plays, and bunt defenses, and bunt coverages and came out here today and just didn't carry it out very well."
A bases loaded, no-out double off the bat of Makenna Mathis that drove in two runs was the lone extra base hit of the inning.
Cara Davis, Kristin Dickens, and Grace Cothran also had one ribbie apiece in the frame.
Pitt County scored five more times in the third inning on three hits, two bases on balls and two Marshall County errors to make it an 11-0 ballgame.
Over the first three innings, Hollingsworth's squad had managed just two hits on offense, a bunt single by Allison Sheroski in the first inning and a one out single by Jordan Yelensky in the second.
Skylar Brandon worked a one-out walk in the fourth inning, but Pitt County reliever Lindsey McCallum, who came in for Abigayle Rowell in the third retired the next two Marshall County to end the game in the run-rule loss.
"Our problem is we don't get to keep these girls together as long as these other guys do," said Hollingsworth. "Those girls have been together all summer. Our summer we have league teams, then go to a couple of tournaments, and don't practice together all year. It's like anything else, if you practice long enough and hard enough, you know where you're supposed to be on every play."
On Friday versus New Kent, Marshall County was sharp and hitting on all cylinders as Miranda Cooksey led off the game with a walk and Sheroski laid down a perfect bunt, beating out the throw to first as Cooksey scampered over to an uncovered third base bag.
A passed ball two pitches later sent Cooksey home and they would never trail again in the ballgame.
After a pop-up, an error with Emily Martin at bat, followed by a walk to Leah Hollingsworth loaded the sacks before Yelensky knocked in Sheroski with a ground ball for a 2-0 lead.
New Kent leadoff hitter Katie Schrader drew a leadoff walk versus Marshall County starting pitcher Samantha King and would come around to score after a bunt single by Erika Richards, followed by a couple of passed balls.
In the top of the second, Marshall County exploded, scoring six runs on three hits, one New Kent error, and three bases on balls.
Amanda Patterson, Cooksey, and Martin all had RBIs in the inning.
New Kent threatened in the bottom of the inning, but Cooksey stepped on the fire when she hustled after a base hit to center, relaying to Yelensky at short, who nailed Amanda Harding at home to end the inning.
There was no scoring in the third as King remained strong in the circle for Marshall County and Harding came in for New Kent.
Cooksey gave Marshall County a 10-1 lead in the top of the fourth when she drove home Carson Coble and Hannah Singleton.
King struck out two New Kent batters in a 1-2-3 bottom of the frame and her teammates poured on some more runs, scoring three times in the fifth to put the game away.
Once again, Patterson drove in one, Sheroski had an RBI, and Martin knocked in her second runner of the game to make it 13-1.
Leah Hollingsworth came to the circle in the bottom of the inning and closed the door.
It was much the same story for Marshall County in Thursday's opener versus Madison County, North Carolina except for the first two and a half innings as Coble and Hannah Jennings sparred to a shutout draw in the circle.
In the bottom of third, just as it had done outside earlier in the day, a storm descended on the Madison County ballclub as Marshall County sent twenty-two batters to the plate and scored seventeen runs.
Before there was even an out in the frame, the hometown girls scored thirteen times.
Singleton walked to start the rally, Cooksey singled to center, and a pitch hit Sheroski to load the bases.
Skylar Brandon came up and drilled a two-run double to the fence in left field to make it 2-0.
Cooksey scampered home on a passed to make it three-zip before Martin and Leah Hollingsworth worked back-to-back walks, reloading the sacks full of orange and white.
Yelensky busted the game wide open when she bashed a bases clearing triple, opening up a half dozen to none lead.
Before the inning was over, Taylor Patin, Brandon, Martin, Blair Richards, and Singleton all drove home another teammate.
Cooksey had three hits in the inning and drove in two, Brandon had two doubles and three ribbies, and Singleton walked twice, reached on an error and scored twice and the game ending in a 17-1 run-rule win.
Hollingsworth is not finished with the all-stars, as they will be travelling to Clarksville this weekend to take part in the United Southern Girls Fastpitch World Series.
"We played in a USGF open tournament and came in second, which qualified us for the USGF 'C" World Series in Clarksville," said Hollingsworth. "We leave Friday. It's a big deal, they have opening ceremonies and picnics like this. It's a big tournament, we play four pool games in a day and a half before you start the elimination the second day, so it's a big tournament."
The Oviedo, Florida All-Stars went on to win the title with a 5-2 triumph over Pitt County in the championship game.