By MICHAEL LETENDRE
BRISTOL – Either August came early in Bristol this year or the Little League Softball City Series was already underway on Tuesday, June 12 from Rockwell Field.
The tournament, a typical August treat, was played in the middle of June for the first time in six years and right off the bat, the Freedom and Black Panthers were engaged in a barnburner.
And the final score, which saw the Freedom win 18-9, did not reflect how close the game truly was.
It was wild at times, certainly exciting throughout, and the lead changed hands a couple times before things were said and done.
And the Freedom struck first in the game.
Emily Valentine (three walks, three runs) walked with one out and moved over to first and when Kaylynne Yorkhill (four walks, four runs) kicked out a grounder that was misplayed and the runners were on the first two bases.
They each stole a base to get into scoring position on off a passed ball, Valentine scored to make it a 1-0 game.
But the Black Panthers responded as Cierra Jones (3-for-4) smacked a ball to left to open the bottom of the first and an infield single by pitcher Jayna Hatcher (two hits) put two on with no outs.
The runners both advanced a base to get into scoring position and on a passed bass, Jones tried to score but ran out of the base path and was called out at the plate.
Black Panthers’ manager Kevin Hatcher challenged the ruling by the umpire, but the call was not overturned and in the end, the Freedom left the first inning ahead on the scoreboard, 1-0.
The Freedom’s Sophia Mazzone started the second tilt with a walk and Grace Higgins followed up with a base-on-balls of her own – both taking an additional base on a passed ball.
Taylor also walked; and on a passed ball, Mazzone scored to make it a 2-0 contest.
Higgins then tried to score when the ball squirted away from the catcher but on a close play, the runner was called out at home and the Black Panthers were up at bat, trailing just 2-0.
Cadence Levesque (hit, two runs) beat out an infield hit to first and went to second on a passed ball.
Abby Simard (2-for-2, triple, two runs, two runs) then unleashed a three-base hit to deep right as her RBI tally cut the deficit to 2-1.
And when Mya Porrini beat out an infield hit, the run scoring smack tied the affair up at 2-2.
Delaney Bartell then grounded out but the play resulted in another RBI as the Black Panthers took the lead for the first time at 3-2.
Jones then smoked another single to left before Hatcher’s line drive was nabbed by Valentine on the hill for the third out, keeping it a one-run game as the third inning came upon the game.
Valentine got right to work from the plate, earning a walk and eventually advanced to third before Yorkhill was hit-by-pitch, putting runners on the corners.
And then Tanher Thurston – who went 3-for-5 with seven RBI and was just a homer away from a cycle in the game – slapped a two-RBI single up the middle as the Freedom retook the lead at 4-3.
Mazzone walked again and Higgins grounded into a force out at second as Nickerson made a slick throw from shortstop but Thurston scored on the play to propel the Freedom to a 5-3 push.
Sierra Messier (winning pitcher, 2-for-5, three walks) came in to throw in the third for the Freedom as Valentine moved into left field.
Bristol Girls Little League Softball – City Series
Game 1: FREEDOM 18, BLACK PANTHERS 9
from Rockwell Field at Rockwell Park, Bristol
Freedom (1-0) 113 526 – 18
Black Panthers (0-1) 033 003 – 9
WP – Sierra Messier (Freedom)
Records: Freedom 1-0; Black Panthers 0-1