During the season finale, which culminated in a 9U girls coach-pitch softball matchup between Italy and Waxahachie, it was a winner takes all duel for the right to be called, “The Champs!”
Coaches Dennis Janek, Ken Cate, Chris Ellis and Courtney Janek had their girls primed for battle as Italy came out swinging to build an early 6-0 lead. Waxahachie tried to match Italy’s output but a pop fly catch for the third out by first baseman, Karley Sigler, sent the game into second-inning with Italy on top 6-3.
With Italy’s Emily Janek patrolling the pitcher’s circle, Italy continued to lead 13-9 after the third with Janek catching pop flies and third baseman, Cadence Ellis, protecting her base with one out after another.
Left fielder, Evie South saw plenty of action as the game became more intense and did well in her role as damage control by keeping Waxahachie’s hits into the outfield from accumulating extra runs. Centerfielder, Ella Hudson was just as thorough in centerfield. At one point, Hudson scooped a grounder and then tagged out a Waxahachie runner trying to reach second base to end the threat.
By the fourth-inning, however, Waxahachie’s bats heated up, tying the contest 13-all before jumping ahead 14-13. Italy responded by retying the game 14-14 and then by retaking the lead 15-14 when Alyssa Wiser reached home plate. Before the top of fourth had ran it’s course, Italy led 18-14 going into the bottom half of the inning.
Again, Waxahachie fired back and kept pace by pulling within 2 runs, 18-16 before Ellis made the force out at third to return Italy to offense. In the top of the fifth-inning and facing 2 outs, Italy’s hitters got on a roll to score 3 straight runs, taking a 21-16 advantage. In a game with a 6 run per half inning limit, Italy needed just one more run to ensure a tie.
With the bases loaded and so much at stake, South made her approach to the plate and then found a pitch she liked from Coach Cates who was pitching. With a mighty swing that appeared to be just what Italy needed, South hit a towering fly ball down the foul line that stayed fair before touching down directly behind third base. Unfortunately, the ball stuck in the sand instead of rolling into the outfield which gave Waxahachie a chance to make a play. With a runner heading home and another heading to third, Waxahachie managed to get the force out at third to keep Italy’s 6th and key run from counting.
With Waxahachie needing 5 runs to tie and 6 runs to win in the bottom of the fifth, Italy’s coaching staff was imploring their girls to concentrate on getting the three outs and hopefully the win. With the season title on the line, Waxahachie blasted hit after hit to pull within 2 runs, 21-19. A grounder hit down the first base line gave Italy their first out when Sigler closed in, collected the ball and then hustled back to step on the bag.
Waxahachie followed up with a blooper over shortstop where Wiser was in the outfield to glove the ball and throw it back into to Janek. Janek caught the one-hopper and then hurried into the circle to stop the play but not before the scoreboard read 21-20. The next batter hits a pop-up just beyond the outstretched glove of Janek to get on base. The ball was corralled by shortstop Kinley Cate, but Waxahachie now had runners at first and second base and only trailing by 1 run.
After a Waxahachie batter struck out to leave two outs against them, the next batter hits a chopper toward third. Italy’s, Cate, comes way over from the short-stop position to stop the ball allowing Ellis to cover third. All in one motion, Cate picks up the ball and then turns and releases it quick-like to Ellis who makes the catch, just as the runner steps on the bag. In a controversial call, the runner is ruled safe by the umpire to the dismay of Italy’s coaching staff who were hoping they had just won the game. The play would have been the third out Italy needed, but as it stands, Waxahachie has the bases loaded.
With the score still 21-20, Waxahachie gets a clutch hit that rockets its way thru the infield and past second base. Hudson is on the spot and again scoops the grounder and goes what would be the game-winning tag at second. Unfortunately for Italy, the tag is not in time as Waxahachie’s runners continue to round the bases. Italy is unable to get the ball into the circle to stop the play and Waxahachie executes the comeback to win 22-21, claiming the 2013 9U girls coach-pitch softball championship with Italy the runner-up.
Strong performances were turned by each Italy player and especially first-time catchers, Kiara Bueno, who’s hustle kept the game flowing, and Demi Miller who was also effective behind the plate. Infielders Janek, Ellis, Sigler, Paige Butler and Cate were playmakers along with Brianna Hall, Hudson, South, Miller and Wiser in the outfield. It was a tremendous effort by Italy with a split-second deciding the outcome of a good game between two good teams.
Both teams advance to the playoffs to be played over the course of three days in Ferris. Good luck to both squads!