It was a rivalry saved for the last game of the season, and one that took until the last inning of the game — and then some — to finally decide.
But after the back-and-forth battle between the Millsboro Middle School and Selbyville Middle School softball teams went into extra innings on Monday, May 8, it was the Golden Knights who would eventually come away with a 7-6 victory, playing spoiler to what would have been an undefeated season for the Indians.
“We’re feeling really good,” said MMS eighth-grader Hadlie Jarvis, explaining that her squad’s own undefeated season hopes had been spoiled in a 3-1 loss to Seaford on April 11. “We’re very hype about it, just because we couldn’t go undefeated, and now we made sure that they can’t either.”
“When we lost the opportunity to go undefeated earlier this season, this was one game on the schedule we kind of circled,” added MMS head coach Zach Murphy, who had coached the Knights to an 8-0 season in 2016 and 10-0 season in 2017.. “After we realized last week that [Selbyville] took out Seaford, we knew that this was a huge opportunity for us to try and make up for it against another undefeated team. It was a game for us to get up and to play for.”
It was on the game’s first at-bat against the then-9-0 Indians that the Knights saw their pre-game hype escalated even more, when, with a 3-1 count, seventh-grader Makenna Messina set the tone with a leadoff homerun over the right-field fence, to make it 1-0.
“I just started bawling tears of joy,” said Messina of rounding the bases and heading home to meet her fired-up teammates. “It was just one of those moments that you wait for. It was amazing, especially against Selbyville.”
Sixth-grader Amara Cropper would keep the Millsboro bats hot with a double on the next at-bat, eventually making it home and pushing the lead to 2-0 before a strikeout from SMS pitcher and eighth-grader Kayler Townsend got the Indians out of the inning.
But despite the early setback, SMS head coach Jesse Bare said that his squad remained unfazed, after digging themselves out of similar situations earlier this season — particularly in an 11-run rally in extra innings to come back against Laurel on March 27.
“That’s one thing about these girls is they’ve had confidence all year long,” said Bare. “I think it goes back to the Laurel game. They knew we weren’t out of the ball game, and we’d have our opportunities — these girls don’t let anything pull them down. They were all ready to roll.”
After a play at the plate by SMS catcher and eighth-grader Ursula Barrientos kept the Knights off the board in the top of the second, Barrientos would generate the opportunity the Indians had been waiting for, now on the plate’s other side, getting them on the board with an RBI-single that scored eighth-grader Brandi Mitchell and made it 2-1.
It was SMS seventh-grader Monajna Briddell who kept things going, after sending a long shot to center for an RBI-single of her own on the next at-bat that scored sixth-grader and pinch-runner Lily Hoban all the way from second-base.
With the game tied 2-2, the Knights would go on to load the bases in the next inning, eventually taking another two-run lead on RBIs from Jarvis and eighth-grader Aryanna Briddell, and eventually pushing the lead to 6-2 in the fourth inning.
They’d hold on to that lead for two more innings, as MMS pitcher and eighth-grader Macy Layfield was able to hold the Selbyville bats at bay from the circle.
“We knew they had some bats,” said Layfield, who pitched all eight innings for the Golden Knights, finishing the game with four strikeouts. “I was trying to get the change-ups to work for me today.”
It wasn’t until the bottom of the sixth that the Indians would tie things up again, that time at 6-6, when Townsend scored the game-tying run on an RBI shot from seventh-grader Samantha Derickson.
That would remain the score headed into extra innings, after a scoreless seventh, as the Indians geared up to try to keep their perfect season unsullied and the Knights geared up to hand their rivals their first and only loss.
“I told the girls, ‘Hey, this is a brand new ball game,’” said Murphy of the team’s talk before the start of the eighth. “We wanted to start just the way we started the game and score first.”
The game-winning run would come in the top of the eighth inning, when MMS eighth-grader Megan Sterling scored from third on a wild pitch to give the Knights a 7-6 advantage.
Townsend would get the Indians in scoring position when they took the plate in the bottom of the eighth, but the game that had begun with a play off the bat of Makenna Messina would end in one off her fingertips, as the MMS eighth-grader made the throw to first for the final out, to seal the 7-6 upset win for the Golden Knights.
“Getting this huge win — it’s amazing,” said Messina. “This is such a big rivalry in any sport. I’m just so happy to be with this team and to be able to accomplish this win with them.”
The Knights improved to 7-1 on the season with the victory, looking to keep things rolling still with two games to go that were rescheduled from earlier this season.
“We’ve got two tough games coming up against two really good pitchers,” said Murphy of upcoming matchups against Laurel and Beacon. “We’re going make some adjustments and do what we need to to try and finish strong.”
As for the Indians, they'd finished their season 9-1 after suffering their only loss.
Despite falling short of their goal of going undefeated, Bare said that one game won’t take away from the rest of their accomplishments this season, and their high hopes for next spring.
“You couldn’t have asked for a better game,” said Bare. “The girls are taking it pretty hard, but that’s because they worked hard all season. But we’re proud of them. It was a great season, and our girls had the fight in them all throughout. We have a lot of talent coming back, so we’re really encouraged.”
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