By GREG MENGELT
New Albany and Jeff/GRC were both victorious in pool play at the 9-10-year-old softball state finals at Clarksville Little League on Friday.
Jeff rebounded from 14-8 loss to Fort Wayne Don Ayers in Thursday’s opener behind the arm of Megan Eckert. Jeff beat Bedford 6-3 is now 1-1 in Pool A and faces Hessville today at 5:30 p.m. and Broad Ripple at 3 p.m. Sunday.
New Albany, which had a bye on Thursday, won its opener 6-4 over Middlebury. New Albany takes its 1-0 mark into Saturday’s 8 p.m. tilt against Lebanon. It then faces South Bend Chet Waggoner on Sunday at 3 p.m.
LATE RUNS LIFT NEW ALBANY
With bases loaded and two outs in the bottom of the fifth, Cami Reynolds broke a 4-4 tie with a bloop single between Middlebury’s pitcher and second baseman to score Alexia Flannery with the go-ahead run. A wild pitch then allowed Olivia Licerio add a sixth run for New Albany.
“It was important for us to win the first game,” New Albany manager Jason Kochert said. “We have to win all of our games, that’s the way we look at it.”
After a scoreless first inning, Middlebury scored two in the top of the second to its first lead of the game.
New Albany responded with three runs in the bottom half of the inning when Flannery walked and scored on a Licerio RBI single. Licerio scored on a double-steal following a Riley Chumbley walk. Chumbley then scored on a Hayley Fulton sacrifice bunt.
“Once we got comfortable, we started to relax,” Kochert said.
After Middlebury scored twice to tie the game in the top of the third, Skyler Roark led off the bottom of the frame with her second base hit. A Maggie Jo Foreman groundout and a Kayce Quinn single moved her to third and she scored on an error committed by Middlebury during another New Albany attempt at a double-steal.
Foreman held Middlebury scoreless the rest of the way, allowing Reynolds, Flannery and Licerio to become heroes in the fifth. Foreman surrendered just five hits and struck out six, including all three she faced in the bottom of the fifth.
“We played great defense, Maggie Jo pitched good and we hit pretty well, too,” Kochert said. “All around, we played a pretty good game.”
Roark went 2-for-3 with a double — the game’s only extra-base hit — and scored a run, while Licerio and Flannery each scored a pair of runs.
ECKERT LEADS JEFF REBOUND
Eckert surrendered just three runs on seven hits and struck out seven in Jeff’s victory. She walked just one Bedford batter.
“Megan, she did a great job for us,” Jeff manager Dan Monroe said.
Eckert also scored the game’s first run when she led off with a single, went to second on a Savannah Gaither walk, to third on a Danielle Monroe groundout and scored on Nan Garcia’s groundout.
Jeff added four more big runs in the second. Mollie Davis started the rally with a single — one of six Jeff singles — and Raegan Jones walked. After Davis was forced out on a Macy Redman fielder’s choice, Madison Bush drove home Jones and Redman scored on a wild pitch to make it 3-0. Eckert and Gaither then laced back-to-back RBI single and Jeff had an early 5-0 advantage.
“Those runs were real important,” Monroe said. “It helped the girls keep their confidence up and gave them a little cushion.”
Bedford scored one run in the third and two more in the fifth to pull within 5-3 but a Baylee Clark sixth-inning RBI single to score Monroe gave Eckert more support than she needed.
Eckert had a pair of hits and scored twice with an RBI, Gaither reached base twice and knocked in a run and Bush scored a run and drove one home.
Dan Monroe said it was a win Jeff needed.
“It was great. It helped the girls get their confidence back,” he said.
LITTLE LEAGUE 9-10 SOFTBALL
JEFF/GRC 6, BEDFORD 3
Jeff/GRC 140 001—6 6 0
Bedford 001 020—3 7 0
W — Megan Eckert. L — Carly Matthews.
Records — Jeff/GRC 1-1.
Middlebury 022 000—4 5 0
New Albany 031 02x—6 6 0
W — Mary Jo Foreman. L — Andrea Yousey. 2B — Skyler Roark (N).
Records — Jeff/GRC 1-1.