By ADAM PRUIETT
Similarities abounded Saturday in the 9-10-year-old softball state finals for the Jeff/GRC and New Albany All-Star teams.
Both teams jumped out to big first innings. They both finished with impressive last innings. Each offense batted around at least once. Each team benefited from strong outings in the pitching circle.
Most importantly, both teams won — and won in dominating fashion, as Jeff/GRC defeated Hessville 15-4 and New Albany took down Lebanon 11-0 in five-inning games in pool play at Clarksville Little League.
Jeff/GRC improved to 2-1 in Pool A, while New Albany moved to 2-0 in Pool B. Both teams continue pool play in the tournament at 3 p.m. Sunday. The top two teams from each pool advance to Tuesday’s semifinals.
NEW ALBANY STAYS UNBEATEN
New Albany’s Skylar Roark could also lay claim to pitching one of her finest games. She fired a three-hit shutout against Lebanon, striking out the side in the second and two more in the first, fourth and fifth on the way to 10 in a complete-game effort.
“I was thinking I’ve just got to throw strikes and follow the coach’s signs,” said Roark, who pitched the last two innings of Friday’s victory.
Doing both worked out well for her. Hannah Medley led off for Lebanon with a triple but was thrown out at home by third baseman Kayce Quinn trying to score on Courtney Welborn’s ground ball. That was the biggest threat Lebanon mounted, with only one other runner reaching third base.
“She threw one of her best games,” New Albany manager Jason Kochert praised Roark.
Roark helped the offense stake the team to a comfortable 3-0 lead after the first inning when she led off with a single. After Maggie Jo Foreman reached on an error, Alexia Flannery blasted a two-run double to right center. Flannery then raced home on a passed ball.
“I felt we had the lead and just wanted to keep going and not lose the lead,” Roark said.
New Albany succeeded in doing just that. It didn’t score in the second through the fourth inning, but Roark and the defense kept Lebanon at bay until New Albany piled up eight more runs in the fifth for an 11-0 lead. Back-to-back errors by Lebanon were an ominous start to an inning that saw 12 New Albany hitters enter the batter’s box.
Flannery collected her third hit and third RBI by driving in a run with a single. Riley Chumbley, Olivia Allee and Quinn all singled in the inning while Cami Reynolds smacked a double. Reynolds was 2-for-2 and reached base in all three plate appearances.
“I feel like we played a great game and we’ve been playing great,” Flannery said. “[Welborn] was a good pitcher. I took the ball and I whacked it.”
“They played phenomenal today,” Kochert said. “You can’t ask for anything more.”
FIRST TWO INNINGS SET TONE FOR JEFF
Jeff/GRC played prior to New Albany and surged in front against Hessville with three runs in the first inning behind three walks and two base hits. Megan Ekart, Savannah Gaitlen and Danielle Monroe - the first three hitters for Jeff/GRC — all drew walks before Mollie Davis and Raegan Jones both singled.
“That set the tone for us,” Jeff/GRC manager Dan Monroe said.
Indeed, Jeff/GRC didn’t let up. The All-Stars scored once more in the second inning and then sent 11 batters to the plate in a five-run eruption in the third.
Ekart drew the second of her three walks and Monroe singled as Jeff/GRC scored its fourth run in the second. Monroe also singled in a third inning that contained five walks and a hit batter. By the end of the frame, Jeff/GRC had racked up its ninth run.
“The girls played hard and we made a lot less mistakes today,” Dan Monroe said. “The girls had real good confidence.”
It remained all the way through their last time at-bat. Twelve hitters came to the plate in a six-run fifth inning that culminated with Jeff/GRC scoring its 15th run. Four more walks and another hit batter helped matters, and Nan Garcia, Davis and Ekart all singled.
“I think we played really good,” Danielle Monroe said. “We kept our head in the game. When they scored a few runs, we didn’t get down on ourselves.”
Along with contributing two hits at the plate, Davis picked up the victory in the circle, throwing into the fifth inning before Bailee Clark entered to finish off the win.
“I think I threw pretty well,” Davis said. “I think I did better than I usually do.”
“Mollie did an awesome job for us and Bailee did also,” Dan Monroe said.