GULFPORT — Bloomingdale's methodical, 5-1 opening-round victory over Wayne on Friday at the Southern Region softball tournament certainly won't earn the team any style points.
Style, however, has no bearing on which team will advance in two weeks to the Little League World Series in Portland, Ore.
"You always want to get that first one," Bloomingdale manager Jerry Schinella said, before adding, "We weren't quite as sharp as we'd been in the past."
Nervous, perhaps, considering the circumstances, Bloomingdale (1-0) couldn't capitalize on an early chance to break open the game after loading the bases in the first inning but failing to score.
By the third inning, however, Bloomingdale settled and took control. After leading off with a walk, Bree Schinella crossed the plate on Sammie Selden's RBI groundout. Savannah Bradley also scored on the play after an errant throw trying to get Schinella at the plate to give Bloomingdale a 2-0 lead.
"When you kind of look back at the districts and sectionals, even states, the first game we start off a little slow," Jerry Schinella said. "The longer we're in the tournament, the big bats start to come alive. We're hoping for that same trend."
Shannon Bell's infield single in the fourth inning scored Mackenzie Morrison to increase Bloomingdale's lead to 3-0. Morrison's bloop single in the fifth brought home another run and a double steal allowed Brianna Roman to cross the plate for a 5-0 Bloomingdale advantage.
Meanwhile, Bloomingdale pitcher Emily Whitworth held West Virginia (0-1) scoreless through five innings before surrendering a run in the sixth. She allowed just three hits while striking out five to earn the complete game victory.
"Excellent pitching; Emily did a great job," Jerry Schinella said. "She probably had a little bit of butterflies. I know I did."
With runners on the corners in the sixth, Whitworth struck out the final West Virginia batter to end it.
"I was really scared with that last pitch," she said.
N.C. 4, Alabama 2
North Carolina broke open a 1-1 tie by scoring twice in the second inning and held on. Starting pitcher Amber Cook earned the victory for North Carolina (1-0) after allowing just two runs on three hits over four innings. With the score 3-2, North Carolina reliever Haylee Overholt held Alabama (0-1) scoreless in the fifth inning and Kaitlyn Bishop worked a perfect sixth to get the save.
Tenn. 9, Georgia 2
Tennessee jumped on Georgia early, breaking out to a 6-0 lead after two innings to earn an opening-round victory. Ashley Starnes' two-RBI double in the first inning kick-started Tennessee's offense. Shea Pearson started on the mound for Tennessee (1-0) but was needed for just one inning. Whitley True relieved in the second inning and finished the game for Tennessee. She allowed two runs on five hits. Four errors proved costly for Georgia (0-1).
South Carolina's opening game with Virginia was postponed indefinitely by thunderstorms. The teams had just started the bottom of the first inning when lightning cleared the fields. After a lengthy delay, the game was called.