While the 8U, 10U and 12U Optimist Club All-Stars may have lost their opening match ups, it was the 10U All-Stars who competed in arguably the best game of the Eastern North Carolina state tournament’s first day.
It was a contest filled with numerous lead changes, big time hits, gutsy pitching performances and all of the drama one could expect from a competitive softball game. But in the end, the 10U All-Stars simply ran out of gas in the humid Wednesday weather, falling to the Washington All-Stars by the score of 10-9 in a game which lasted two and a half hours.
“It was a strong effort from these girls, but we failed to execute down the stretch,” said 10u All-Stars coach Boyd McLaurin. “If anything, these girls learned out here today that they cannot stop putting the pressure on the other team, no matter the circumstances.”
For the girls of the 10U All-Stars, it was just the second tournament ever that they faced non-machine pitching, their first being the District 2 All-Star Championships which they won. But starting pitcher Kassee Lowe was more than up to the task, as she tossed nearly four solid innings and ran her pitch count to over 50 as she kept her team in the game. After the loss, Lowe was awarded a pin by her coaching staff for being the team MVP in the contest.
The Washington All-Stars took the early lead in the game after consecutive RBI hits by Summer Campbell and Emmerson Davis, but the Optimist 10U squad would open up a 4-2 lead of their own shortly afterwards. Batting third in the Optimist lineup, Jenna Byrd would notch the first of her four RBIs in the game with a single, and a few batters later she was followed by Bre Steele who hit a blooper into the outfield to knock in two runs of her own.
Washington would tie the game at 4-4 in the second inning after an RBI single from Abbigail Tucker, who would make her presence felt later in the most crucial moments of the game. The Optimist All-Stars would build a two-run cushion in the very same inning after pinch-runner McKenzie Wilkerson scored on an errant throw, which gave the All-Stars a 6-4 lead over Washington that would remain until the fourth inning.
The bottom of the fourth inning saw Byrd stretch a 2-RBI single into an inside-the-park home run after she reached home on a fielding error. This would be the ninth and final time the Optimist All-Stars would score in the game, as Tucker would take the mound for Washington and close the game in dominant fashion. Tucker would record four strikeouts in the final two innings as the Optimist All-Stars appeared to run out of the gas.
“We just gave out at the end,” coach McLaurin said. “But a game like that can really be an endurance test, especially out in this heat, so I’m really proud of these girls for gutting it out as long as they did.”
Playing at the same time as their 10U counterparts, the 12U Optimist All-Stars fell to Pitt County by a score of 15-3 in a game that was called early due to the 10-run rule.
For continuous coverage of the ENC state tournament including standings and highlights, check back in the Friday edition of the Laurinburg Exchange.
10U Optimist All-Stars remaining games schedule:
-Wednesday against Wilson Xtreme at 7:30 p.m. on Field 1
-Thursday against Newport at 3:30 p.m. on Field 1