Marshall County lost 11-3 in the title game last season in Altamonte Springs, Florida, but Sunday it was a much different story as the two squads battled neck and neck until the final out.
Marshall County had played outstanding defensively coming into title tilt, only to see it fall apart in the first inning as Pitt County scored four unearned runs off Marshall County starting hurler Madison Curtis.
"We started off a little rough when we gave up four runs on errors in the first inning," said Marshall County manager 'Tooter' Paul. "We battled back and tied it up, but just couldn't get there in the end. They scored one in extra innings and we didn't. I have to give Pitt County all the credit, they deserved it."
Paul's girls came right back in the home half of the inning, cutting Pitt's lead in half on RBI base knocks by Taylor Walls and Hannah Sheppard.
Pitt starter Sara Nimmo left the game to begin the bottom of the fifth, and with two outs Marshall County's Alli Hobbs drilled a triple to the fence in right before Walls followed with another three-bagger to make it a 4-3 ballgame.
Marshall County's outstanding backstop, Sydne Solomon tied the game at four when she ripped a single to left before Carson Criswell got out of the inning on a line drive out to center fielder Ava Palmer.
In the circle, Curtis and Criswell both retired their opponents in order in the sixth inning, sending the contest to extra innings.
Back-to-back bases on balls off Walls by Lexi Phillips and Cameryon Criswell put Pitt runners on first and second with no outs.
Walls got a 4-6 force at second for the first out and a pop-up to Solomon made it two outs, before pinch hitter Emma Jo Wolfe delivered the go-ahead base hit to center for Pitt County, making it a 5-4 ballgame.
Carson Criswell remained in the circle for Pitt County in the bottom of the seventh and got the first out on strikeout before Makayla Feller reached second base on an error.
The Marshall County comeback was not to be as Carson Criswell got a grounder to second and another grounder to her twin sister at first base Cameryon Criswell to end the game and keep the title hardware in North Carolina for another year.
"I have coached a lot of travel ball, but I have never been involved in anything like this," said Paul after the game. "This is something I never thought I would experience. All the kids from other states coming in, the parents, and the coaches all got along this week and it was an unbelievable experience for all of us."
Paul's entire squad moves up to 12U next year and the all-star skipper said, "This group is stout, you give me this same group of girls two years from now and I guarantee we will bring it home."
In the Sunday morning semifinal, Marshall County took on a tough Lands Run, South Carolina squad that had put up a 3-1 pool play record and the South Carolina team put up a single run in the top of the first on an RBI hit by Hailey Fowler.
Mikaela King, who earned two game MVP awards in the tournament, would not surrender another run the rest of the contest and finished with seven strikeouts as she went the distance for the victory.
Marshall County tacked on four runs in the second on a squeeze bunt RBI by leadoff hitter Jasmine Runk and an RBI single by Hobbs.
King helped her own cause with an RBI single that scored Thrasher, who had singled in the third to round out the 8-1 final.
In Saturday pool play, Marshall County thrashed Glen Allen, Virginia in a morning game before facing Pitt County in the final pool play contest in the division.
The winner would earn the number seed in the championship round and it was the hometown girls that won in convincing fashion 9-6.
Walls started in the circle for Marshall County, while Carson Criswell got the nod for Pitt County.
Marshall County had something to prove and they jumped all over the defending champs with five runs in the top of the first inning and would never trail in the contest.
Runk, Hobbs, Solomon, Brooke Paul, Thrasher, and Curtis all reached base in the inning and the orange and white clad home squad was helped by two big Pitt County errors that accounted for four of the five runs.
In the top of the second, Walls made it 6-0 when she drove in Runk with a double to left.
Pitt managed a single run in the bottom of the inning, but MC got it right back in the top of the third on an RBI double by Thrasher that scored Sheppard.
Pitt would make it 7-2 in the home half of the third on a bases loaded walk to Cameryon Criswell, but once again, Marshall County would not take their foot off the gas as they put up two more runs in the fourth on a two-run single by Walls to make it an 9-2 ballgame.
Pitt scored a single marker in the fourth and threatened the Marshall County lead in the last inning, scoring three times before Walls slammed the door shut with consecutive outs to Curtis at second.
Curtis was outstanding in the field at second base, recording seven assists and one putout in the game.
Marshall County opened up the tournament with a 10-0 run-rule win over Union East, North Carolina in Thursday's opener.
MC scored six times in the top of the first with the big blows coming on a two-run triple by Sheppard and an RBI single by Thrasher.
King gave up one hit to pick up the win in the circle for Marshall County, who put up four more runs in the sixth to notch their first win of the tournament.