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Little League softball: Rowan falls to Virginia in championship game

Staff report

SALISBURY — Madison Hill struck out nine batters, as Washington County Little League of Bristol, the Virginia state champions, knocked off Rowan Little League, 6-3, on Sunday and earned a trip to the World Series in Delaware.

Virginia, 4-1 in the Southeast Regional softball tournament for ages 13-16,  had to win a game earlier on Sunday just to get to the winner-take-all championship game, but a breezy 15-0 victory against Tennessee didn’t tire Virginia out. That game only served to get the Virginians loosened up at Salisbury Community Park.

Rowan had whipped Virginia, 9-2, on Saturday to punch its ticket to the title game, but Virginia made good adjustments to crafty Rowan pitcher Aubrey Tuell, who had baffled Virginia on Saturday. Tuell was hit hard in the rematch.

Virginia’s first inning began with a sharp single and a wicked shot to the right side that Rowan second baseman Ellie Wilhelm gloved and turned into a double play. But then Virginia scored three runs with two outs. Three straight singles, all of them well-stroked, loaded the bases. Maggie Deel then whistled a liner to right field. Rowan right fielder Ally Young charged in and looked like she was going to make a knee-high catch, but the ball glanced off her glove, and Virginia had two runs. The third run scored when Tuell fired a pitch in the dirt with a runner at third, and catcher Lucia Barbon couldn’t block it.

Rowan, 2-1 in the tournament, got two runs back in the bottom of the first. Ellen Yang walked before Young drilled a double to the left-center gap. Kary Hales was hit by a pitch to fill the bases before Hannah Roberts grounded a run-scoring single through the left side. Young scored from third when a pickoff throw by Virginia’s catcher struck Young in the shoulder and caromed far enough away for her to score.

Hill doubled to start the Virginia second, but Tuell settled down and retired the next three hitters.

In the bottom of the second, Wilhelm pulled a one-out double, a long drive that nearly reached the left-field fence, but Rowan couldn’t get her home.

With two runners on and one out in the third, a flash of lightning halted play and gave Rowan 30 minutes to regroup.

Kali Morton entered the circle for Rowan after the delay, but Hill delivered a clutch hit as Virginia pushed its lead to 5-2.

Virginia tacked on another run in the sixth, and Hill kept putting up zeroes. Lauren Coughenour finally knocked in a run for Rowan to cut the deficit to 6-3, but Hill didn’t wilt in the heat. She threw a complete game.

Virginia got two hits each from Deel, Hill, Haylee Dye, Sarah Musick and Sydney Bailey and will start play in the 10-team World Series in Lower Sussex, Delaware, on July 31. Virginia will play against Canada in its first game.

The Rowan team, managed by Rob Hales and assistants Shane Morton and Jimmy Roberts, has veterans from Rowan’s Little League World Series runs, but they are young to be competing in this age group. They have a chance to be a factor for years to come.

Virginia      302   100   0   —   6   12  1

Rowan        200  001   0    — 3    6    2

W — Hill. L — Tuell.

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