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W.Va. softball falls into losers bracket

July 28, 2018

WARNER ROBINS, Ga. — Two plays defined West Virginia’s game Friday in the second round of the Southeast Region Little League Softball Championship.

Unfortunately for the team from Barboursville, both plays benefited its North Carolina opponent.

North Carolina ended West Virginia’s two best scoring chances with a double play and a circus catch in the outfield, then collected two unearned runs to claim a 2-0 victory in the double-elimination tournament.

The team from Salisbury, North Carolina, capitalized on two errors, a pair of walks and one of its two hits for the game to score both its runs in the third inning.

Pitchers Campbell Schaen and Karsen Simpson allowed just two base runners the rest of the way to preserve the win.

“We were two evenly matched teams,” said West Virginia manager Jason Harris, whose team dropped its first game in postseason play after eight wins. “They made a couple of nice plays and we made a couple of errors when they put it in play. Sometimes that’s all it takes when the teams are close.”

West Virginia plays at 3 p.m. Saturday against Georgia in the losers bracket. The Hamilton, Georgia, team had the day off after falling 12-0 to Tennessee in its opener Thursday.

Just as it did its first-round win against Virginia, West Virginia got off to a fast start in the top of the first inning. The first of North Carolina’s pair of defensive gems, however, quelled the threat.

Schaen hit Addison Perdue leading off and Nicole Harris followed with a single. Losing pitcher Quinnlyn Ballengee moved the runners over with a ground out to third base, bringing up Ramey George.

The catcher bounced a ball to Kendall Robinson near the first base bag. The fielder looked at Perdue, who had left the base on contact, then took two steps to the base to get George. Robinson then threw to catcher Emma Clarke to get the sliding Perdue at home to end the threat. Harris requested replay on the close play, but the call stood.

“We were aggressive there and we thought she made it,” the manager said. “We played it for her to take off on anything to the right side. She hesitated just a little and they made the play they had to. It was bang-bang. A double play always hurts.”

George was also involved in North Carolina’s other key defensive play.

She hobbled to the plate in the third inning with two outs and runners on first and second. George turned her ankle entering the dugout before the start of the second inning and didn’t return after her at-bat. Harris said he expected her to play Saturday.

“I told her all we needed was a shot to right-center field,” he said before George went to the plate. “She said, ‘I’m not sure I can run it out.’ I said all we need is a shot to the gap and we’ll score two and be good.”

George delivered, pounding a high pitch on the outside of the plate toward the space between center fielder Ashlee Ennis and right fielder Caitlynn Winford. Ennis was too far away to come close to reaching the shot, leaving it to Winford.

She backpedaled a few steps, turned and ran to her right a few more, then backpedaled again, finally reaching up behind her head at the last second to snare the ball.

″(George) did exactly what we needed and that girl made the play,” Harris said. “Ramey did all she could do.”

North Carolina carried the momentum swing to the bottom half of the third inning, sending eight batters to the plate to score all the runs Schaen and Simpson needed. Lead-off hitter Brooke Piper and Simpson scored the runs, both on errors after reaching base on walks.

“We hope we can make it through the rest of the way and maybe see them again,” Harris said.

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