The Little League Lower Sussex 9-10 softball All-Stars proved when they played on June 28 they will be serious contenders for the championship in the future.
The Lower Sussex softball All-Stars won four out of five games to earn their way into their first championship game against the defending champion, Laurel.
Laurel beat Lower Sussex 15-3 in the tournament but every day is a new day, and anyone can win on any given day — especially come the championship game.
Lower Sussex was put to the test early in the game, when starting pitcher Julie Merritt faced a bases-loaded situation in the first inning.
Merritt worked her way out of the inning with the help of catcher Ragen Doyle, who threw out a Laurel base runner by a mile and on the money for the first out. From there, Merritt struck out the next batter for one of six strikeouts in her complete game effort. Merritt struck out the side in the top of the second inning.
Right-fielder Ashley Ibey batted in the first run, which was scored by a motoring Doyle, who came all the way from first base to give Lower Sussex a 1-0 lead. Center-fielder Shannon Seiders belted in a two-strike, two-out RBI single. That scored Merritt, who reached on a single.
Merritt and Seiders both hit two singles apiece. Ibey accounted for the other hit, but Doyle and third baseman Rachel Hudson both chipped in with walks to give Lower Sussex some much-needed base runners.
Merritt was working on a no-hitter until the fifth inning, when a single was scored by the first-base umpire though it appeared to be an out.
Hudson made two great plays with the game on the line in the fifth inning, when she had to charge the ball from her position. The first of her two plays was ruled a single though the throw appeared to be on time.
Lower Sussex really flashed the leather in the top of the third inning when Seiders and first-baseman Carlie Smith both made spectacular back-to-back catches.
Seider’s catch was hit sharply to center field and after a quick step in she was able to adjust to secure the second out.
Smith not only flashed the leather but showed her range. She tracked a foul ball about 4 feet into foul territory and that happened to fall at a difficult angle. Smith hurried over to the right spot and settled under the ball to secure the final out.
Second-baseman Jenna Albright didn’t get a hit in the championship game but she sure did make an impact. She looked in and delivered two ground balls to first base to keep Laurel off the bases.
In the end, both teams came out winners. Lower Sussex 9-10 softball All-Stars didn’t have this kind of success last year and Doyle expects they will only get better.
Lower Sussex defeated the Millsboro All Stars (20-13) on Monday, June 20. They then lost to Laurel (15-3) on Wednesday, June 22. They beat Rehoboth (13-7) on Thursday, June 23, and beat Nanticoke (12-1) on Friday, June 24, to clinch second place in the A bracket.
Jodi Powell pitched and won a complete game in their bracket victory over the Bracket “B” winner. Lower Sussex won 10-6 behind 6 innings pitched by Powell. Rachel Hudson went 2-for-4 with a triple and single. Julie Merritt had three-RBI hit. Second-baseman Jena Albright made brilliant plays on defense, and Karlie Smith was flawless once again at first base.
The girls played at a very high level and were well-versed in the nuances of the game. Tim Doyle’s players moved on the field out of habit and being properly coached — though Doyle doesn’t think that the coaches have too much to do with it.
“A lot of these girls have brothers or sisters that play ball, so they are brought up learning the game,” said Doyle.
The Lower Sussex Little League 9-10 baseball All-Star team fell just short of making the championship game, by a mathematical technicality. After falling to Georgetown 12-5 in the first game, Lower Sussex rebounded to beat Millsboro 7-6, Milton 19-5 and Rehoboth 7-6.
Rehoboth won the first seed because the calculations were made by figuring out runs allowed divided by the number of innings played.
“It’s kind of disappointing that we could beat the No. 1 seed and still not make it to the championship,” said Head Coach Doug Hudson. “You don’t want to lose without even getting to play but the kids weren’t that disappointed. They just play for the love of the game.”
“Collier Donald batted .538 for the tournament and caught a good game for us behind the plate,” said Hudson. “He keeps the ball in front of him and controls the pace of the game.”
Hudson also mentioned Garrett Hudson as another of the tournament’s standouts. Hudson batted a team-high .714 batting average, faced 31 batters and struck out 10 while giving up six hits in a complete game win over Rehoboth.
Zach Cordrey batted .333 for the tournament and made a spectacular diving catch in centerfield against Georgetown in the losing effort.
“Zach has developed into a solid centerfielder,” added Hudson.