By GREG MENGELT
NEW ALBANY —
New Albany’s 11-12-year-old Softball All-Stars scored four runs on four hits and took advantage of four Silver Creek errors in the fourth inning of Tuesday’s District 5 Tournament championship at Grant Line Elementary School.
Silver Creek pitcher Abby Whitlock pitched four perfect innings, but she couldn’t overcome six errors as New Albany earned a 5-2 victory and a spot in the state finals at Lebanon beginning Tuesday.
The same group of New Albany players went to state as 9-10 All-Stars two years ago and finished fifth. New Albany manager Darrell Thomas expects a better result this time.
“Two years ago, we went up there blind,” Thomas admitted. “We got up north and there were a lot of travel teams. There was a lot of experience up there and we were behind. The reason I started our travel team is because I knew we were going to get back.”
Halfway through Tuesday’s game, it didn’t appear New Albany would return to state.
Whitlock was perfect through three innings and Silver Creek took the lead in the second.
With one out, Silver Creek’s Molly Abernathy became the game’s first baserunner with an infield single. Pinch-runner Madelyn Ferry stole second and third base and came home on a Courtney Redford single into center field for a 1-0 Silver Creek lead.
Erin Bell led off the New Albany fourth inning with a single to break up Whitlock’s perfect game. After an illegal pitch moved her to second, New Albany’s Kelsey Adams brought her home with a single into right field to tie the game.
“[Our goal coming into the fourth was] just to get runners on base and get things started for us,” Bell said.
“We put the ball in play and we rattled them, then we scored more on top of that,” Thomas said.
A Camri Thomas single led to perhaps the most important moment of the game as a pair of throwing errors allowed Adams and Thomas to score to give New Albany a 3-1 lead. Two more errors in the inning eventually gave New Albany a 4-1 lead.
“Whenever they make errors, we’re going to catch on and just keep going,” Bell said.
“We just made some errors and just kind of fell apart. That was the turning point,” Silver Creek coach Dave Harbold said. “An error’s a run and it showed on the scoreboard. We did bounce back, but we just couldn’t get our bats going enough.”
With Camri Thomas in the pitching circle, the three-run lead was more than enough. Thomas gave up just two runs (one earned) on five hits and didn’t walk a single batter.
A Lauren Jacobs fourth-inning double, which was followed by an error that allowed Jacobs to score, gave Silver Creek its second and final run. Camri Thomas then struck out the side in the fourth and allowed just one more baserunner.
“I’m going to be a little biased, but she’s a strong pitcher,” Darrell Thomas said of his daughter with tears in his eyes. “I’m a little emotional. She’s a great kid all-around. She’s a great team player.”
“I think she did good pitching,” Bell said.
New Albany’s defense also was solid — and sometimes spectacular.
In the fifth, Bell went deep in the hole at shortstop and gunned down Silver Creek’s speedy leadoff hitter Jordan Balz. Whitlock then hit a line drive into center field, only to have New Albany’s Anya Davenport rob her of a base hit with a diving catch.
“[Thomas] pitched well and when we put balls in play, they made some great plays,” Harbold said. “They made some plays that could have been runs.”
New Albany added a fifth run in the sixth as Alexis Fisher reached on an error and Bre Schoenfeld scored on Silver Creek’s sixth error of the contest.
No New Albany batter reached base more than once as Whitlock struck out eight batters with no walks.
Jacobs and Alisha Harbold each had doubles for Silver Creek. Jacobs was the only player in the game to reach base twice.
DISTRICT 5 SOFTBALL
NEW ALBANY 5, SILVER CREEK 2
New Albany 000 401—5 4 1
Silver Creek 010 100—2 5 6
W — Camri Thomas. L — Abby Whitlock. 2B — Lauren Jacobs (S), Alisha Harbold (S).
11-12 SOFTBALL STATE TOURNAMENT
Thursday, July 11
New Albany vs. District 7, 4 p.m.
Saturday, July 13
New Albany vs. District 11, 4 p.m.
Sunday, July 14
New Albany vs. District 12, 2 p.m.
Monday, July 15
New Albany vs. District 6, 5 p.m.
Tuesday, July 16
No. 1 seed vs. No. 4 seed, 2 p.m.
No. 2 seed vs. No. 3 seed, 2 p.m.
Tuesday, July 16
Semifinal winners, 5 p.m.