Contributed by Keith Parsons
EDEN — Tori Mabe grounded into a force play at third for the final out to end one last rally, and the Rockingham All-Star Belles were eliminated from the North Carolina Dixie Youth Softball State Tournament with a 5-3 loss to Burgaw on Tuesday.
Burgaw, which handed Rockingham both of its losses in the double-elimination tournament, remained unbeaten and will play Eden on Wednesday for the championship. Since Eden has one loss, it will need to beat Burgaw twice to claim the title.
With two on and two outs in the bottom of the seventh, Mabe extended her at-bat by fouling off six pitches, increasing the drama with each swing. She ultimately laced a hard grounder to third, which was gobbled up and turned into a fielder’s choice to end it.
Rockingham managed only three hits in this one — singles by Savannah Lampley, Peyton Fann and Mackenzie Webb — and made five errors. In fact, Burgaw never put the ball safely in play out of the infield, using an array of bunts to keep Rockingham’s defense off-balance.
NaLee Jacobs kept the game close with a gritty performance on the mound, surrendering only three bunt singles in six innings. She walked five and struck out three.
“It’s tough to win, almost impossible to win, with five errors on defense and getting only three hits offensively,” coach Danny Lampley said. “Burgaw has good team speed and maybe that had us rattled defensively.”
Rockingham fell behind 3-0 in the first inning and the deficit increased to 4-0 headed to the fourth. With one out and Lindsay Hunter at first, Cher Morse reached on an error, moving Hunter all the way to third. Morse stole second and scored behind Hunter on Fann’s single to left.
An errant throw into Burgaw’s dugout on Owen Bower’s grounder to short put runners on second and third, and Fann scored on a wild pitch to make it 4-3. But Greyson Way and Macie Gibson both were retired on grounders to end the threat.
In the fourth, Lampley led off with a single to center, and two outs later, Webb kept the inning going with a single to left. But Emily Parsons popped up to third for the final out.
“I still feel we had the best team on paper, but, hey, that’s why you play the game,” Danny Lampley said. “Nothing is ever guaranteed. We will continue to work hard on our shortcomings to be better.”
Angels fall twice to be ousted
EDEN — The Rockingham All-Star Angels were knocked off twice Tuesday to be eliminated from the North Carolina Dixie Youth Softball State Tournament.
Rockingham lost its opening game of the day to Hope Mills 3-2 in six innings in a battle of unbeatens. Rockingham scored a single run in the bottom of the fifth to force extra innings.
Shyann Byrd and Kearston Bruce singled to start the rally for Rockingham. After a strikeout, Breleigh Clark advanced both runners with a sacrifice bunt. Quston Leviner walked to load the bases. Morgan Singletary then drew a walk to force home the tying run. Kenleigh Frye hit into a fielder’s choice to end the inning.
Hope Mills responded with two runs in the top of sixth on four Rockingham throwing errors. Rockingham attempted to respond in its half of the frame. Allyiah Swiney doubled to get things started for Rockingham. Swiney moved to third on Jakerra Covington’s sacrifice bunt. Payton Chappell struck out, but Mattie Liles kept the inning alive with a single to score Swiney. The rally ended when Byrd bounced into a fielder’s choice.
In the elimination game, Dunn pulled out a 3-1 victory over Rockingham to avenge a loss earlier in the tournament.
“We just didn’t hit the ball,” Angels coach Keith Chappell said. “We knew playing both of those teams, the one that made the fewest errors would win.”
Dunn scored a single run in the second and tacked on two more in the fourth. Rockingham got on the board in the bottom of fifth inning. Liles singled and raced home on a single by Bruce to account for the team’s lone run.
“We went way further than I thought we would,” Chappell said. “The girls played hard. I’m proud of all the girls.”
Sports editor Shawn Stinson contributed to this story