All Star softball thriller ends with walk off win

Glenn FrazerHeadlines, Sports

Gold team for 2023 DFRC Blue Gold softball team, photo by Glenn Frazer

Over 40 of Delaware’s best seniors took the field for their final high school softball game at the Smyrna Little Lass complex Tuesday evening. The “picture-perfect” weather complimented an outstanding performance by the Blue and Gold all stars in front of a large crowd.

The Gold team included players from Caesar Rodney, Delmar, Delmarva Christian, Indian River, Laurel, Sussex Academy, Sussex Central, Sussex Tech, Woodbridge and Brandywine. First year head coach Rachel Fetterman (Delmarva Christian) was assisted by Cape Henlopen’s Mike Tkach and Michael Oberly (Brandywine). While the Blue was coached by Nicki Shirey of Smyrna who is retiring, and was named the Coach of the Year by her peers. Shirey was assisted by Sean Brennan from Milford and Jon Thomas of St. Mark’s. The Blue team consisted of players from Appoquinimink, Archmere, Caravel, Charter School of Wilmington, Conrad, DMA, Middletown, Milford, Red Lion, St. Mark’s, Smyrna, and William Penn. 

The Gold squad won the pregame skills competition to be designated as the home team for the extended 9 inning game. The skills competition consisted of a home run derby, bunting accuracy, throwing drills, speed around the bases and an “around-the-horn” contest with the Gold barely edging the Blue.

The game was officiated by a group of upstate and downstate umpires who volunteered their time and travel for the event that benefits the DFRC. Jim Miles, Ed Morris and Dave Wilson represented the Delaware Umpire’s Association, and alternated with Ron Kinslow, Rob Maloney, Ozzie May and Ron Lynam from the Delaware Softball Umpires Association. 

The Gold scored two unearned runs in the first inning on an error, single, and 2 batters being hit-by-pitch and added a 3rd run in the second inning to take an early 3-0 lead. Blue came back with a single run in the 4th and tied the game on Sabrie Purnell’s 2-run home run in the 5th. Both teams scored later to set up the dramatic 9th and final frame tied at 4-all. 

If the Gold didn’t score, the game would end in a tie. The drama built as the Gold’s leadoff batter (Ella Hadley-Brandywine) reached on an error. Following a strikeout, Indian River’s Jaya Schaub drilled a single up the middle sending Hadley to 3rd base as Schaub alertly advanced to 2nd on the throw. After another strikeout, Shaniya Lewis was intentionally walked to load the bases and set up a force out at any base. Shaniya’s sister, Laniya worked a 3-0 count and eventually walked to force in the winning run to end the game. 

Both pitching staffs turned in impressive performances. Savannah Laird from Appo high recorded 7 strikeouts, while Milford’s Khylia Reynolds “fanned” 6, and Middletown’s Reese Founds retired 5 via strikeout for the Blue. The Gold pitchers were led by Delmarva Christian’s Kaylan Yoder with a game-high 8-K’s, Hailey Justice from Sussex Tech set down 3 batters and Indian River’s Kinsley Hall was the only pitcher that didn’t allow a run in her 3-innings of work to start the game. The Gold MVP award went to Sussex Tech’s Shaniya Lewis who doubled, singled, and walked in her three plate appearances while scoring a run. The Blue MVP went to Sabrie Purnell from William Penn, with her 2-run homer to center field. It was the only home run of the game.

The game was well played by both teams and a fitting tribute to the finest senior softball players in the state, playing the game they love for the final time in their high school careers.  

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