By Kevin Eickman
Last year when Milford traveled to Worcester, Massachusetts for the Senior League East Regional tournament, they did not know what to expect. This year when most of that same team traveled up for the Big League version of the same event, they knew exactly what to expect. This turned out to be a blessing and a curse as District I attempted to claim the Regional title. The first game featured a tough 1-0 loss to a team from Walden New York, a loss that District I used as a wake-up call.
“It was so surprising for us to lose, we just didn’t expect it.” Harley Rickards said. “After that we were really focused, we felt like we couldn’t lose another game the rest of the tournament.” That’s just what District I did as they were perfect the rest of the way, defeating that same Walden squad 2-0 to be crowned Regional Champions. With that victory, this Delaware team had punched their ticket to Roxana and the World series.
From the beginning, the team knew that the opening round of the World Series was never going to be an easy one, not when Delaware District I and District III meet on the softball diamond. The pitcher on the mound for District III to start the Big League World Series in Roxana is no stranger to the District I team, a team with a decided Milford flavor to it. Regan Green is a Laurel product and considered by many to be one of the best pitchers in the state of Delaware. Green has made a career out of silencing the Milford bats, seemingly owning them at times. The fact that she shut out Milford in last years Senior World Series opener, gave reason to believe that runs would be at a premium.
That was last year however and this year things went a little bit differently for District I as they faced off against their nemesis. It was clear early on that Green did not have her best stuff as Milford was able to get on the board in the bottom of the second inning. After Haylee Scruggs had singled and worked her way to third base, Harley Rickards delivered a fly to deep right field to easily plate the games opening run. Talking with Rickards after the game, she said she had a feeling this could be a big night at the plate for District I.
“I think we could all sense that Regan was not at her best tonight, the fact that we scored early gave us a lot of confidence,” Rickards said. “When Regan is at her best she is incredibly hard to hit, so when you have a chance you need to take advantage of it.”
With the lead now on their side, District I was looking very solid with Shaina Reed on the mound. Reed, who attends Polytech looked solid in the first three innings, holding the the District III team without a base runner. In the bottom of the third inning, it looked as if the game might have been settled. With two runners on base Cassetty Howerin crushed a green offering, depositing the ball over the center field fence. The home run gave District I what looked to be a sizable 4-0 lead, a lead that would be safe against most teams.
District III is not just any team however, they contain solid players who are tournament tested and not easily scared. With each passing pitch they were starting to zero in on Reed and it was becoming obvious that District III was not going to go quietly. “That is a very good team over there, nothing is ever easy against them,” District I manager Ron Fry stated. While Reed was on her game, she simply did not have enough to keep her hard hitting opponents in check. By the time the middle of the fifth inning arrived, the game was all square at four runs each.
The bottom of the inning featured more fireworks, as District I got back on the scoreboard. This time it was Reed who provided the pop, cracking a two run blast to giver her a little breathing room with a 6-4 advantage. Reed made quick work of the sixth inning and as she took the mound in the top of the seventh, she was just three outs away from an opening game victory.
As expected District III refused to go down quietly. With a few key hits and a few lucky breaks it was soon crunch time. District III had closed the gap to just one run and had runners on first and third with two outs. The pressure was high as the entire stadium was wrapped up in the action. The Reed pitch was met with a crack of the bat that sounded ominous at first. But looking into center field, you could see Scruggs had a bead on it. As she secured the games final out, District I had the opening round victory they so desperately wanted.
Pool play for the World Series will continue until Thursday. District I Manager Fry knows his team has lots of work to do but was happy his team got off to a winning start. “You come out here and win the first game, you’ve got some momentum going into the next one,” Fry stated.
** UPDATE ** On Monday, August 4, after our publication deadline, MLIVE Sports reporter Kevin Eickman broke the news that our East Regional Champs from Milford defeated the Southeast team 4 to 2 in the second game of this year’s Big League World Series. East won 4-2 on a 4 hitter by Reed. Kasey Fry had two hits, including a double. Fry also had an RBI. Cassetty Howerin continued her hot hitting with a, single and a double.
On Tuesday, August 5, the District 1 girls earned a 10-3 come from behind victory against the team from Asia-Pacific and with it a 3-0 record. That guarantees them a spot in the semi-finals of the World Series. After giving up 3 runs in the first two innings, Shaina Reed put in a gutsy performance as she scattered 10 hits while getting the complete game victory. The game was tied as the teams entered the bottom of the 6th, where District 1 exploded for seven runs.
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