All-Stars lose heartbreaker
By Rudy Coggins
Published in Sports on July 29, 2005 2:09 PM
WINTERVILLE -- What began as a strong pitcher's duel turned into a wild, nightmarish ending -- particularly for Wayne County -- on day two of the Babe Ruth 14U Southeast Regional.
Oviedo (Fla.) profited from three errors and one controversial call in the seventh inning of a come-from-behind 9-8 victory at the Sara Law Complex on a sweltering Thursday afternoon. The Florida state runner-up, Oviedo faces either in-state rival Normandy or Virginia champ Glen Allen at 3 p.m. today.
Wayne County right-hander Lauren Darden and Oviedo hurler Brittany DiRobbio, also a right-hander, each found their groove after yielding first-inning runs.
Darden retired 11 of 13 batters and benefited from two great defensive plays in the fourth inning. Center fielder Jordan Hill robbed Megan Alligood of a potential double and second baseman Christina Williams snagged a line drive to end the inning.
"Lauren threw the ball well," Wayne County coach Greg Pittman said. "She ran out of gas one time, but we had a long (fifth) inning and she rested."
DiRobbio sat down five consecutive batters before losing her momentum in the fifth.
She loaded the bases on consecutive walks to Morgan Davis, Williams and lead-off hitter Ashley Shingleton. Davis eventually scored on a wild pitch, one of four by DiRobbio in the inning. Williams and Shingleton scampered home on throwing errors.
Amber Baker, who out-legged an infield hit, crossed home on a wild pitch. Leigh Smith plated Lindsey Pearsall with a double to cap Wayne County's five-run uprising which gave it a 7-2 lead.
Darden tripled to lead off the Wayne County sixth and scored on Davis' sacrifice bunt.
The Wayne County faithful, who sat under tents and fanned themselves with programs, cheered the team for its effort. They also urged them to play solid defense in what turned out to be a disastrous final inning.
Oviedo started its miraculous comeback with two infield hits and a fielder's choice as the heat index soared above 100 degrees on the Dimon Field diamond. Lead-off hitter Natalie Bellatoni slapped a shot down the third-base line that scooted between the Wayne County defender's legs.
"That would have been an easy out," said Pittman. "What we needed was outs at the time. We make that play all year long, but at a crucial time when we needed it, we didn't make it. That's part of the game."
Just one run scored, but Oviedo -- whose players cheered "we're not done yet" from the dugout -- continued hitting ... and hitting. Stephanie Shoup smacked two-RBI single into left field, which whittled Wayne County's lead to 8-5.
The most-critical play of the inning occurred after DiRobbio's base hit to left field. Megan Alligood hit a grounder to Smith at short, but the ball bounced off Shoup and prevented Smith from cleanly making the play.
Smith, Pittman and his coaching staff argued that the ball hit Shoup. Pittman pleaded his case to the field umpire.
"From where he was standing, he said the ball never touched the runner," said Pittman. "The home plate umpire said she was 95 percent sure that it hit the runner. But she could not over-rule him unless he asked her.
"He asked her for her help. She said she could give her judgment call, but could not make the call for him. I was disappointed in the explanation. It hurt us at the time -- took a lot of life out of the girls."
Erin DiRobbio plated the game-tying run. Erin Wolfe, hitless in three previous at-bats, drove home Alligood for the game-winning tally.
"They took advantage of the call and grabbed momentum," Pittman said.
The heart-breaking defeat set up an elimination-round contest at 9 this morning against Wilson County. Wilson dealt Pittman's squad a defeat nearly three weeks ago in the state tournament at New Bern.
Wayne County (4-4) is 1-3 in games decided by three runs or less in the postseason.
"We've got a good group of girls and they know how to win," said Pittman. "They'll come back ready to play today."
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