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July 12, 2014

LITTLE LEAGUE: Jeff dominates 9-10 softball division

Gaither, Shelton lead GRC to 14-2 win over Creek in title game

CLARKSVILLE — Jeff/GRC’s 9-10-year-old softball All-Stars got production from their entire lineup and another scintillating performance from Savannah Gaither to beat Silver Creek 14-2 for the District 5 Minor League division championship Saturday at Clarksville Little League.

Jeff will return to Clarksville on Friday to begin the six-team state finals. Pool play continues Saturday with a doubleheader. The semifinals and championship game are scheduled Sunday at 11 a.m. and 2 p.m., respectively.

“We just have to keep doing what we’re doing,” Gaither surmised.

After going 4-for-4 with a triple and five RBIs in Thursday’s pool 11-1 win over Silver Creek, Gaither backed it up with another 4-for-4 performance in the championship game. She hit three doubles, scored four times and drove in the game-clinching run with a single in the fifth.

“She hits the ball deep in the outfield almost every time,” Silver Creek assistant coach Dave Rooney said.

Gaither wasn’t alone. Jeff had 14 hits off of two Silver Creek pitchers. Olivia Shelton also went 4-for-4, scored a run and had an RBI. Cadence Northern drew a pair of walks and scored both times, Sydney Schmitz was 2-for-4 with a double and scored twice and drove in a pair and Raegan Jones was 3-for-4 with two runs and an RBI.

“I think we played very well in the championship game,” Gaither said.

“I think this was two equally matched-up teams — two really good teams — but basically, we just hit the ball better than they did,” Jeff manager Nate Betancourt said. “We just came and swung the sticks. Everybody was swinging the stick.”

Gaither was also in control in the pitching circle. After throwing a no-hitter Thursday, she went three innings without allowing one Saturday. She struck out six and neither run she surrendered was earned.

Kaitlyn Monroe finished off the combined no-hitter with two perfect innings, including striking out the side in the fourth.

“Superior pitching was the difference,” Rooney countered. “[Jeff had] shutout pitchers. Their 1-2 punch was outstanding and hard to hit at this level.”

Silver Creek starter Hallie Foley got Jeff out 1-2-3 in the first and she gave Creek a 1-0 lead in the bottom of the first when she reached on an error and scored on a wild pitch.

Jeff responded with five runs in the second and never trailed again. Gaither led off the frame with a double. After a Shelton single, Gaither made it 1-1 when she scored on a wild pitch. Monroe then hit a sacrifice fly with the bases loaded to score Shelton for the go-ahead run.

Taylor Shelton hit an RBI groundout, Schmitz an RBI double and Jones an RBI single to give the Jeffersonville stars a 5-1 lead.

“Every game we came out flat,” Betancourt said. “Then after that, they had fun and focused and started swinging.”

Jeff made it 6-1 in the third when Gaither doubled and again scored on a wild pitch. Creek countered with a run in the bottom of the third when Emma Walters walked and scored on a wild pitch.

GRC added two more in the fourth. Jones hit a one-out single, which was followed by a Gaither RBI double to the left-field fence and a Shelton RBI single. Jeff then put the game away in the fifth with six runs. Northern walked and scored on a wild pitch, Monroe reached on a fielder’s choice and crossed the plate after a Schmitz single. Hannah Hackworth singled home Schmitz and Jones, who had singled, to make it 11-2. Gaither then gave Jeff the 10-run cushion it needed to end the game an inning early with an RBI single. Hackworth and Gaither both scored on one of three Silver Creek errors for the final result.

Jeff expects to compete for the state championship this weekend, but Betancourt does have one concern.

“We didn’t get a lot of ground balls [during district play],” Betancourt analyzed. “[Opponents didn’t hit] a lot of ball in play. Defensively, I know we’ve been good in practice, but at state, girls will start hitting our pitching.”

“With the starting pitchers they have, they’re competitive,” Rooney said. “I think the Jeff team has a legit shot of doing great things.”

Silver Creek expects to be back with a good shot at competing for the district crown in the summer of 2015.

“The good thing about us is that we’re almost completely a 9-year-old team,” Rooney said. “All but three girls are qualified to come back next year. We’re very excited about this team this year and we’re looking forward to next year.”

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