YEAGERTOWN - It was a season of perfection for the Strodes Mills softball team as it capped off the Mifflin County Little League softball season with a 14-4 victory over a scrappy and feisty group of never-say-die players from Decatur during the Major League softball Super Series Championship game Friday at the Lady Patriots field in Yeagertown.
After a close first three innings, Strodes Mills broke the contest open with an eight-run bottom of the fourth to extend its lead from two runs to 10.
However, the Decatur team would not go away without a fight and rallied back in the top of the fifth to plate three runs of its own and cut the lead to 11-4.
Sentinel photo by MATT STRICKER
Decatur pitcher Destiny Graham, left, can’t hold on to the throw to home as Strodes Mills’ Olivia Ahern slides across home plate during the Major Super Series championship game Friday in Yeagertown. Watching the play is Strodes Mills’ batter Gianna Hoppel, right.
For the Strodes Mills girls, it was their second title in the last three years as last year they did not have a team in the Super Series. However, the team won the regular season title. Both Super Series titles came via perfect seasons.
For Decatur, it was a battle through the bottom bracket that was highlighted by the team's defeat of McVeytown in order to face Strodes Mills.
"With this being my final year we had seven 12-year olds they played well. A lot of them have been with me three years," Strodes Mills manager Greg Wilson said. "So it's a good team. They have heart and you have to have heart to play this game. Whenever they get down they battle back. They're fighters."
In the last three years, Strodes Mills finished with an impressive 41-2 record.
Strodes Mills opened the scoring Friday by plating one in the bottom of the first.
With one out, Ralie Goss got the inning started laying down a bunt single.
Facing two outs, Olivia Ahern showed patience at the plate and reached via a walk, putting runners at first and third.
Riley Mitchell then came through in the clutch, smoking a single that brought in Goss from third.
However, the Decatur defense would stop the scoring at 1-0 and came back to answer in the top of the second.
Jamie Hannon got the inning going for Decatur as she hustled out an infield single. She later scored on a Strodes miscue that allowed her to go home when an overthrow to third on a fly out by one of her teammates tied the game at one.
"We had our ups and our downs but they never quit. They are all young girls. All but one are first year girls. They all played super the whole tournament. They had a super year every single one of them," Decatur coach Ted Kline said.
But Strodes Mills didn't go through the season undefeated by accident as it muscled its way back into the lead in the bottom of the inning, plating one more.
Heather Stricker led off the second with a single into center. Stricker moved into scoring position on an error and a stolen base, setting the stage for her sister.
And her sister Hannah did not disappoint as she hit a ground ball where Decatur was not able to make a play at the plate and had to settle for the play at first.
After holding Decatur scoreless in the third, Strodes Mills added yet another one to extend its lead.
Cassidy Wilson reached on a single and moved up on a stolen base and a wild pitch, putting her in scoring position at third.
A blast to deep center field by teammate Riley Mitchell allowed Wilson to tag up and give Mitchell an RBI sacrifice fly while giving her team a 3-1 advantage.
Once again the Strodes defense came up strong, keeping Decatur at bay in the fourth as its bats were just ready to get started.
A mixture of Decatur miscues and Strodes Mills clutch hits and crafty base running put the game almost out of reach for Decatur, scoring eight runs and amounting a total of 12 batters to the plate in the inning.
Picking up RBIs in the inning was Heather Stricker.
When the dust settled in the bottom of the inning, Strodes led 11-1.
On the brink of being victim of the 10-run rule, Decatur rallied one last time as it got hits from Mackenzie Kline, Skylar Ciccolini and an RBI double by Allie Goss. Sophia Underhill picked up a walk in the mini run. When the Strodes Mills defense shut the inning down, Decatur cut the lead to 11-4.
However, Strodes Mills picked up three runs in the bottom of the inning and never looked back, winning 14-4.