After falling short to Woodbridge in the title game last season, the Lower Sussex Little League 9-10 All-Stars were ready for redemption at the start of this year’s District 3 softball tournament.
And, in drawing the defending champions for Round 1, they’d not only get their shot, but a 5-2 win over Woodbridge when the tournament began on Saturday, July 9.
“Our returners were very excited to have that as our first game,” said head coach Sarah Hoban. “They were definitely psyched up.”
After a 3-2 loss to Laurel the next night, the girls got back on track in the double-elimination tournament, with a 9-0 win over Nanticoke on Monday, July 11.
While the bats were working in that matchup, they were able to keep Nanticoke off the board, thanks in part to a perfect game through five innings from pitcher Camryn Ehlers. Ehlers would end the game with 15 strikeouts, allowing only one runner on base, on a sixth-inning walk.
Last season, Ehlers made only one appearance in the circle, putting together a no-hitter against Georgetown. This season, she finished with 61 strikeouts in only six games.
“I knew right then that she was going to develop into a good pitcher,” Hoban said of last year’s Georgetown game. “You can tell she’s worked really hard at it, and it shows. She’s got a great work ethic and a great drive. Every time she gets out there, she just gets better and better.”
Sill in the one-loss bracket, the girls got ready for a rematch against Woodbridge on Thursday, July 12.
Ehlers shined once again in that game, racking up eight strikeouts and allowing no runs in the 4-0 win.
Offensively, 1B Kinsley Hall tacked on two RBIs, and shortstop Destiny Mitchell recorded a triple.
Throughout the series, Mitchell was responsible for 11 of the team’s 30 runs, as the leadoff batter, and even stole home in the July 10 game against Laurel.
“She does a great job in that leadoff position,” said Hoban. “When she gets on, she’s hard to stop — pretty much if she gets on, she’s coming home. She’s just a very smart, aggressive base-runner.”
Hoban said that, in addition to Hall playing an integral role at first base, the team got some help behind the plate from returning catcher Lily Hoban.
“Lily and Camryn definitely work well together. I think they make a really good team,” she said of the duo.
And the key contributions didn’t end there, going all the way down the line to 3B Jaya Schaub and returning utility player Maleyah Bell.
“We were able to bring her in at key points when we needed speed on the bases,” Hoban explained of Bell’s role. “She was a huge asset.”
“We were really blessed to have 13 girls who really came out and gave it their all. You couldn’t ask for much more as a coach.”
Still in it with one loss, the girls kept rolling on Thursday, July 14, taking down Cape 8-2 and earning a bid to face Laurel for the title.
Having to win twice, however, they’d fall short in a 6-3 decision as Laurel went on to earn the 2016 District 3 crown.
“It was a heartbreaker, and it wasn’t,” Hoban explained of the tournament’s silver lining. “Those girls held their heads up high. We just told them how proud we were of them, because the entire tournament they gave 100 percent 100 percent of the time.”
With agreement from assistant coaches Tasha Mitchell and Amy Hall, Hoban said she believes that, for the 9-10 girls next year, and for the ones moving up to the Major League level, there will be plenty more shots at a district title, and for another dose of redemption, going forward.
“This group of girls is definitely a group to watch through the next couple years,” she said. “They all just have such great attitudes and such great drive to better themselves. It’s a talented group.”