Winning a World Series Championship is the ultimate goal of thousands of kids in the United States. But to win in your hometown — that would be special. The Senior League Softball World Series was held at Roxana, and this year’s host team, Laurel, represented District III in hopes of improving on last year’s fifth place finish.
District III lost 3-2 to the East (Punxsutawney, Penn.) representative in a close contested match-up, but rebounded to win its next two games against Poland and the West (7-0 and 4-3 respectively).
While they coasted against Poland, they would have a much more difficult and seasoned opponent in the Western representative.
West’s starting pitcher, Stephanie Bolt, allowed nine base runners (seven hits and two walks) and allowed four runs to score, but other than that, she kept District III swinging like a rusty gate.
Bolt struck out 11 batters, nine of which were swinging — and mostly at high pitches.
Two throwing errors gave the West three runs to start off the bottom of the first inning, but District III trimmed the lead on a two-run home run by second baseman Brittany Joseph — her only hit of the game.
District III kept the pressure on in the fourth inning by getting three straight hits — the third of which was a RBI double by catcher Brooke Boothe to tie the game at 3-3.
It was about this time that District III’s Head Coach David Dolby made some roster changes that were for the best. Reserve centerfielder Chaniqua Kellam came in for Miranda O’Neal and went 2-2 in her only two at-bats of the game. She belted two doubles, one of which was the game-winning RBI double in the top of the seventh inning to give Laurel a lead of 4-3.
Starting pitcher Erin Tingle left the game after the first inning, but Kim Owens came in to earn the win. Owens stuck out six — three in her first inning of work, which negated a bases loaded opportunity with two outs.
District III had two days off between their wins over Poland and the West but they would have no such luxury going down the stretch. Following their dramatic win over the West, District III faced a surging Puerto Rican team (4-0 at that point).
District III jumped out to a 1-0 lead in the top of the first inning when a dropped Owens fly ball to centerfield scored Joseph, who reached on a one out walk.
Thus far, Puerto Rico had outscored their opponents 20-2 in four games and had shut out two teams. So getting ahead of them could only bode well for a victory.
District III wouldn’t score another run and Puerto Rico would — four, actually, to win the game.
Puerto Rico got on the board in the bottom of the third inning after Tingle hit catcher Daina Lamb with a pitch to start the inning. Lamb was replaced by pinch runner Carmen Flores and a Nicole Martinez single put runners on the corners for starting pitcher Ninostra Amaro.
Amaro hit an RBI single to score Flores and third baseman Yinosra Claudio tacked on two more with a two-run double to give Puerto Rico a 3-1 lead. Tingle would end the inning on a called strikeout of Lizandra Berrius.
Puerto Rico added an insurance run in the bottom of the sixth inning on a Normangeline Vasquez RBI single, giving them a 4-1 victory.
Amaro wouldn’t pitch the entire game due to arm trouble, but she would bounce back strong for the championship game against the South representative.
Had District III defeated Puerto Rico, they would’ve played Florida for the championship and improved considerably from their fifth place finish the previous year. Now they could only place one or two spots higher depending on who won the consolation game against the East.
District III and the East would play 12 long innings in a sweat-drenching, three-hour game. The East won in the top of the twelfth inning on a RBI single by starting pitcher Brooke Galen to give them a 5-4 victory.
“It was a situation where someone had to lose,” said Dolby. “This game was about who got the breaks.”
Third baseman Lauren Martino led off the inning with a single and right fielder Noella Janocha moved the runner to second on a sacrifice bunt, but nobody covered the bag and Martino slinked into third base. Galen got the barrel on the ball and the first pitch was sent racing towards District III’s shortstop Amanda Horsey.
Horsey had aggravated her ankle sliding into home in a play at the plate in the bottom of the sixth, and was slow to make plays in the field afterward.
Playing with pain, Horsey scooped the ground ball but the throw sailed high towards the first baseman Miranda Dickerson and Galen was called safe, which allowed the winning run to score with two outs.
Punxstantawny took a 1-0 lead in the top of the first inning on a Martino hit for her only RBI of the game on 4-6 hitting.
Owens got District III on the board with a two-run double, her second of the game, and Tingle added an RBI single to give them a 3-1 lead inning.
O’Neal scored Joseph from third base on a sac bunt in the bottom of the fifth inning to tie the game at four apiece, but that is the closest they would get to victory.
Six long, scoreless innings would pass — each team laying it on the line in sweltering heat. Punxsutawney had only two pitchers and, had the game gone on any further, they might’ve had to toss in their “throwers.”
“The heat’s been real tough on these girls,” said East Head Coach Steve Dupont. “Had the game gone any further I would’ve had to put in another pitcher and besides my top two — the others haven’t pitched in a while. But our pitchers [Galen and Orcutt] dug down deep to finish the game.”
Martino was one of the “throwers” Dupont was talking about, and had to pitch in the regional tournament despite not pitching in some time.
“I had to pitch in the regional tournament and it was pretty hard considering I hadn’t pitched since I was 12,” said Martino.
District III had a few chances to score, but poor base running cost them. In the third inning coach Dolby waved Caitlin Dolby over to third on Tingle’s RBI single. She was tagged out. District III had another chance to score a run in the sixth inning when Dolby waved Horsey around to score and she was thrown out by a mile.
“You can always second guess yourself and sit up all night worrying about it, but it was a situation where you’re either a zero or a hero,” said Dolby.
Horsey aggravated her ankle on the play but continued the game to go 1-3 from that point.
Though District III didn’t win, Dolby knew his team played their hearts out and on another day may have won the Senior League World Series.
“Our girls were very deserving,” said Dolby. “We came up just a little short this time but our goal is to always improve and eventually win the World Series.”