By MICHAEL LETENDRE
BRISTOL – It was fitting that the final game of the Bristol Girls Little League Softball City Series Championship came down to just one hit between the Pride and Tigers.
But that one hit was a doozy.
Erin Girard unleashed a three-run, inside-the-park home run as the Tigers scooped up its second straight title with the 3-0 shutout of the Pride from the softball field at McCabe-Waters Little League on Friday, Aug. 22.
The Tigers won the series 2-1 in a nip-and-tuck, give-and-take three pack of games that certainly was a pleasure to behold.
“I’m so happy for the girls,” said Tigers coach John Girard. “They worked hard all season. Last night [Thursday, Aug. 21] was a little downer for them (losing to the Pride) but they came right back. They had their heads in the game. We played flawless…we made some awesome defensive plays.”
It was a the completion of one of the most competitive Little League Softball City Series in recent memory and out side of Girard’s game winning blast, the game was a pitchers’ duel of epic proportions.
And there was a little defense to boot by the victors.
The Tigers threw out three runners trying to advance bases and the few gaffes that were committed on the evening didn’t do any real damage.
But the real damage transpired during a whirlwind fourth frame by the Tigers when all three runs of the contest were scored.
“Both teams really came to play tonight,” said Girard. “Besides that one big inning, that one big hit, just like last night, (the Pride) had their big inning. Tonight, we had our big inning.”
It all started for the Tigers with one out in the fourth when Emily Ericson started the rally off with a single dumped into short right field.
Ericson eventually advanced to second and off an infield hit to third, runners were firmly on the corners when Girard strode up to the plate.
And she scorched the ball into left field as it rolled all the way to the fence and the trio was hustling around the bases, with the entire lot looking to score.
Girard was given the green light as she tagged third base to charge home.
She arrived at the plate before the throw arrived and in an instant, the Tigers held an imposing 3-0 push.
“That’s all it came down to,” said Pride coach Darrell Darby of the Girard blast. “It all came down to one hit. I was just saying halfway through the game (that) this was one of the best city series games in, I don’t know how many years.”
Lyzah Corliss also played well offensively for the Tigers, drawing a walk and sending an infield hit to second base over a busy effort.
But the Pride also had chances to nab the win as well, generating four hits over the first four innings of the game, but just couldn’t get that one hit to find pay dirt as Girard (10 strikeouts, one walk) retired the final seven batters she faced.
However, either team coming out on top wouldn’t have been a real surprise in the end.
“I’m just extremely proud of those girls,” said Darby of his squad. “I told them after the game, don’t hang your head down. … They had a great season all year long.”
Olivia Darby tallied a single to left and was hit by a pitch; Gwen Torreso also had a base hit while Alexa Furniss and Priya Aggarual each generated infield hits for the Pride in a great effort to end the season.
And then there was pitching sensation Ali Rivoira who did everything in her power to generate a victory.
All the Tigers had for base runners over the first three innings were two walks and Ericson who reached base via error.
None of those runners scored and there wasn’t much more Rivoira could do in a six strikeout, two walk gem.
“I told Ali after the game I didn’t think she could pitch any better than tonight,” said Darby of Rivoira.”
The Pride had runners on second and third with one out in the first but Girard and the defense got out of the jam while the squad put runners on during the next three frames in an attempt to post the first run of the game.
Crafty defense and solid play saw two runners caught stealing and the Pride and Tigers battled into the fateful fourth stanza with zero runs on the board.
And once the Tigers scooped up those three runs, the Pride couldn’t put anything together offensively in the fifth and sixth tilts.
Off one final grounder by the Pride, the Tigers celebrated the hard fought win as the squad held on to the 3-0 push to claim the championship trophy.
“It was a well played game,” said Darby. “I congratulate the Tigers and coach John on winning the championship.”