By GREG MENGELT
As the host, District 5 got to have two teams in the Little League 9-10-year-old softball state finals at Clarksville Little League.
Having clinched the top two spots in the district before playing each other, Jeff/GRC and New Albany never got to play for the district championship.
On Tuesday, the rivals will meet for even higher stakes.
New Albany beat Yorktown 11-0 on Monday to earn the top seed in Pool B. Without a chance to advance, Southport left the tournament early, handing Jeff/GRC a forfeit victory and the No. 2 seed in Pool A. Both teams finished pool play 3-1.
Jeff and New Albany will square off at 5:30 p.m. today at the same time as Fort Wayne Don Ayres and Middlebury in the other semifinal. The winners will meet at 8 tonight for the state championship.
While New Albany’s 10-year-old girls still don’t quite have a grasp on the New Albany-Jeff rivalry, their manager certainly does.
“It’s always a big game, no matter what sport it is,” New Albany manager Jason Kochert said of the rivalry. “When the stakes are even higher, you can’t ask for anything more.”
“We would really like to beat them,” New Albany’s Maggie Jo Foreman added.
NEW ALBANY PUMMELS YORKTOWN
New Albany batted through the lineup in two of its three innings at the plate and pitcher Skyler Roark allowed just one hit as New Albany crushed Yorktown in four innings to finish pool play.
“I’m really happy we just won,” Foreman said. “We can take this far.”
Roark opened the top half of the first by setting down Yorktown 1-2-3. She struck out the final two batters of the inning to start a streak of eight in a row. She had a perfect game through three innings and struck out 10 of the 13 Yorktown batters she faced.
“When I pitch hard, I can do anything,” Roark said.
“She’s hitting her spots,” Kochert said. “You can’t ask for anything more than that from a 10-year-old.”
New Albany opened its half of the opening inning with three runs. Foreman, Kayce Quinn and Alexia Flannery each crossed the plate, and Flannery and Kayla Chumbley had RBI singles.
In the second, New Albany added two more runs. Roark opened the inning with a single and scored on an error and Quinn singled and scored on a wild pitch.
The New Albany stars added six more in the third to force the 10-run rule and send Yorktown, which would have clinched the No. 2 seed with a victory, out of the tournament. All six runs were scored with two outs.
“We hit really good tonight,” Foreman said.
Quinn scored three times, while Roark, Foreman and Flannery each crossed home plate twice. New Albany finished with 11 runs on four hits and took advantage of eight walks, two hit batters and three Yorktown errors.
Beating unbeaten Fort Wayne Ayers or Middlebury will likely be a tougher task, but Roark said she and her teammates are up to it.
“[Today] we really need to play our best,” Roark said. “If we put our minds to it, we can do it. It really means big things for the players and the coaches.”