After a series of downpours forced the IYAA hosted girls 8u district softball tournament to relocate from the Upchurch Ball Fields to the Italy High School Softball field, teams from Italy, Milford, Ferris, Ennis and Kopperl battled to be one of two teams left standing and earn a spot in the state tournament to be held in Athens. The district championship came down to a rematch between the Milford Lil’ Dogs, head coached by Ty Evans, and the Ferris Scorpions.
In a double elimination tournament, Milford took a 12-1 bite out of the the Scorpions sending Ferris into the losers bracket.
Ferris responded to the challenge by knocking out Italy’s Lil’ Lady Gladiators, head coached by Lisa Mott, after winning the intense and exciting contest of wills, 15-12. Italy lead 3-0 but Ferris tied the game 3-3. Italy built an 8-3 lead only to watch Ferris tie the matchup, yet again, 8-8. With Ferris ahead 15-12, Italy’s second baseman Grace Payne scooped up three consecutive grounders and threw to Hannah Haight on first base for all three outs, giving the Lil’ Lady Gladiators a chance to at least tie.
Unfortunately for Italy, the Lil’ Lady Gladiators were unable to mount any offense and the Scorpions continued to crawl their way toward the championship center of the bracket.
On Saturday, the Ferris Scorpions won two straight games to earn a chance to vie for the championship.The Milford Lil’ Dogs ended the Ennis RP Electric Diamond Divas’ season to earn a spot in the title game. The loss resulted in a respectable 3rd Place finish by the Diamond Divas. Despite the disappointing loss, the Diamonds graciously accepted their plaques and deserve credit for being a well coached, extremely talented ball club.
The wins by the Ferris Scorpions set up the rematch with an unbeaten Milford team who sported a 16-0 season record going into the game. As the remaining two teams in the tournament, both clubs qualified for the state tournament. However, with a Milford win, the Lil’ Dogs would be crowned the champs. With a Ferris win, the Scorpions would force a third game against Milford that would decide the championship.
With Milford’s defense struggling to get a handle on the ball in the early innings, the Scorpions avenged their earlier tournament loss to Milford and made a 13-4 statement, forcing a third and deciding game.
After both teams enjoyed a brief break, the title of “champions” was up for grabs. Milford strikes the first blows and takes a 3-0 lead. Ferris manages to tie the game in the top of the 3rd inning 3-3. In the bottom of the third, Milford’s Sarah Sanders fouls two off and then hits one into the field of play and reaches second after an overthrow to first base.
Bree Brown singles to put runners on first and second for Milford. Milford’s next two batters strike out and fly out. Callie Poore drops one beyond second base to score Sanders from second, Milford retakes lead 4-3. Milford’s next batter pops one up to centerfield where a force tag is made at second base to get Ferris out of the inning.
In the top of the 4th inning with one out, Ferris lines a shot straight to Milford’s pitcher Markia “Co Co” Houston who makes the grab for the second out. The next Ferris batter line drives the first pitch straight to the waiting mitt of third baseman Katera Birdow for the third out.
Milford grabs their bats for the start of the 4th inning and Houston leads off with a single to centerfield. Alex Jones grounds out to the mound but advances Houston to second for an RBA. Jace McIntyre lands a pop-up over third base for a single to give Milford two runners on base at first and second. Sanders singles a grounder to third base but Ferris gets the force out in front of their dugout.
With 2-outs, Brown singles to load the bases and Kieauna Hurtt singles to score 2-runs, 6-3 Milford Leads. Milford’s next batter hits a pop-up to second base and Jessie Wakefield makes the catch for Ferris to end the inning.
In the top of the 5th, Ferris pops one up to second base and Jones makes the catch for Milford to get the first out. A single down the first base line by Ferris is followed by a Wakefield single that clears the infield sand and eventually lands in the left field grass.
With one out and two runners on, a hit by Ferris rides the first base chalk line but stays fair, loading the bases for the Scorpions. Ferris knocks in a 3-run double to tie the game 6-6 and then follows with a triple to give Ferris their first lead 7-6.
A single by Kylie Sutton scores the runner from third and Ferris goes up 8-6. Ferris grounds out to Houston at the mound who throws to McIntyre for the third out to rescue the Lil’ Dogs.
Now in the bottom of the 5th inning of the district tournament championship game, Poore and Birdow both single to put runners at first and second base for Milford. Houston heads to the plate and drills a double to score Poore and close the deficit 8-7 with Ferris still in front.
With Birdow on third and Houston on second, Jones grounds out to the mound but scores Birdow from third to tie the game third time, 8-8. McIntyre blasts a 2-run homerun shot into the right field gap to give Milford a 10-8 advantage on the scoreboard, and Milford’s fans were loving it!
Still with one out, Sanders returns to the plate and pops-up to third base but Ferris bobbles the catch and Milford has a runner on first. Brown fouls three and then singles to short. Sanders slides under the tag and Milford has two runners on base. Hurtt wounds the Scorpions with a 2-run triple, Milford expands their lead 12-8. Abby Evans hits and turns second after an overthrow to first base. Hurtt scores on the Evans effort and Milford reaches the maximum 7-runs allowed per at bat, Lil’ Dogs up 13-8.
Ferris responds in the top of 6th with back-to-back singles from Evans and Bailey Lane. Wakefield’s bat continues to sizzle as she hits a towering fly ball into centerfield to make the score 13-9. With two Scorpions on base, Ajiah Tatum doubles to score 2 more runs and the Scorpions inch closer, 13-11.
Ferris doubles and then singles to score Tatum making the score 13-12. The Scorpions next batter strikes out. With one out against them, Sutton hits for Ferris but is unable to beat the throw to first and Milford collects the second out. However, the effort by Sutton scores another and the Scorpions complete the rally and tie the game for the fourth time, 13-13.
During the play, after making the catch at first, Milford’s McIntyre sprinted across the infield to tag the runner trying to scramble back to third. The tag tumbled both players but Milford got the double play to get out of the top half of the 6th.
Milford hits to start the bottom of the 6th but Evans, a six year old player, stretches out at first base and makes a grab in the dirt to get the first out for Ferris. Milford hits two singles and then a third from Jones but Ferris makes the force out at third base, two outs and two on and a chance to win the championship for the Lil’ Dogs.
Unfortunately for the Lil’ Dogs, Milford’s next batter grounds out and Ferris escapes the bottom half of the 6th before Milford’s Lil’ Dogs can cause any mischief. Solid defense by the Scorpions sends the championship game into an extra inning.
With the score still tied 13-13 in the top of the 7th, and Ferris trying to win their fourth straight game of the day, the Scorpions begin with the top of their lineup. Taylor Coody hits a grounder to Houston on the mound who throws to McIntyre for the first out. Evans hits a short grounder but beats the throw to first, one on with one out for Ferris. Lane hits to Birdow at third base who makes the throw to McIntyre at first for the second out of the inning.
Wakefield strides to the plate and sends another fly ball into shallow left field. Hurtt, in left field, runs up and catches the ball just before it drops on the fringe to collect the third out for Milford, exciting the Milford crowd.
The game enters the bottom of the 7th inning and Milford’s Sanders hits toward third base. Ferris overthrows the ball to first and Sanders races to third, one on and no outs for Milford. Milford’s next batter strikes out setting the table for a dramatic conclusion to the district tournament.
Milford’s Hurtt confidently approaches the plate. Normally a long ball hitter for the Lil’ Dogs, Hurtt taps the ball in the direction of first base and takes off. Ferris does their best to make a play but Sanders rushes in from third and stamps her cleat marks on home plate to help Milford win the district tournament championship 14-13 over the Ferris Scorpions.
Milford’s fans jump for joy and storm the field to hug the Lil’ Dogs. Poore did backflips and Sanders gave Jones a piggyback ride. Head coach Ty Evans was doused with the ceremonial water cooler as the team cheered and hugged. With both teams qualifying for state, the Lil’ Dogs and the Scorpions joined in a circle and did a victory chant, coincidentally, while fireworks lit up the night sky. Afterwards, with Cameras flashing throughout the infield, players from both sides received plaques at home plate and then packed their bags for the state tournament in Clifton.
The IYAA thanks all the volunteers who helped with the success of the tournament. A special thanks once again to Italy ISD for allowing the tournament use of their facilities. Thanks to Angie Janek for being the tournament’s official score keeper, Roy and Michele Stephens for their hard work at the gate and concessions. Also thanks to the Norwood Family with Ken on the grill, Sandra in the concession stand and Sa’Kendra, Junior and Kendrick pitching in when needed. Thanks Stephen Mott for answering many of the same questions over and over for fans but always with courtesy and a smile. Thanks to IYAA President Gary Wood and his wife Darla for all they do behind the scenes and to Andrea Hooker and Hannah Washington for helping in the concession stand.
We appreciate our Ellis County Umpires for making the tough calls and running a smooth tournament. The IYAA also thanks the Italy Police Department for checking in on the games and ensuring everyones safety. The IYAA also expresses a sincere thank you to all the tournament sponsors listed below:
District Tournament Sponsors
City of Italy
McDonald’s – Italy
Citizens National Bank – Italy
J & J Custom Homes
Pizza Inn – Italy
C5 Hyles Car Wash
Ken & Sandra Norwood
Subway – Italy
Paaco – Hillsboro
Stephen & Lisa Mott
Ellis County Umpires
Wood Paint & Body
Michael & Jennifer Chambers
Milford Lil’ Dogs (17-1) Roster:
Girls Coach-Pitch Softball 8 & Under Division Champions
Girls Coach-Pitch Softball 8 & Under District Champions
Marcus Houston, Michael Brown, Veronica Rankin
IYAA Sports, “The winning tradition starts here.”