TAMPA — There's a timeless adage in baseball that says "Pitching and defense wins championships." The same can be said for softball. And a group of local girls proved it this past weekend.
The Keystone Little League's 9-10 softball team lost its first game at the Tournament of State Champions Softball Invitational, but rallied to win the next five to capture the regional title in Luray, Va.
"We lost the first game in (the state tournament) and absolutely drew upon that experience," coach Tom Brennan said. "We told them to just keep playing their game and everything would work out."
Keystone, which finished the summer 15-2, dropped its opener 5-4 to Tennessee to fall into the loser's bracket, but rebounded with three wins to reach the championship game. Keystone then blanked West Virginia 4-0 and 3-0 to take the championship.
Unlike their older counterparts, the 9-10 division does not include a World Series competition.
"We faced two of the best pitchers we had ever seen (against West Virginia)," Brennan said. "We wanted them to stay loose and felt good things would happen."
Stephanie Sandborn and Sydney Martin combined in both games to shut out West Virginia. Brennan said that as dominant as his pitching was, the defense was even better.
"They played amazing defense, just amazing," Brennan said. "There were great catches and pickoffs and double plays. It was remarkable."
Second baseman Jade Rayburn was behind one of those twin killings, and Brennan noted the strong outfield play of centerfielder Adie Brake. Catcher Alli Adamy also picked off a number of runners throughout the tournament, including three in the first game against West Virginia.
On the offensive side, the coach said, Rayburn had an outstanding tournament, and Stephanie Brennan collected a pair of game-winning RBIs. Kathryn Benninghoff scored all three runs in the tournament-clinching finale and stole three bases that game.
League president Linda Weisman was in Roanoke, Va., attending her daughter's ASA National Tournament and made the nearly three-hour drive to watch the championship games. Weisman also trekked almost five hours each way to watch the Keystone 9-10 baseball team, which was also competing in the regionals in Ceredo, W.Va. That tournament was not complete at press time.
"It was worth every minute," she said.
The Keystone 11-12 softball team finished third at the Southeast Regionals in Warner Robbins, Ga. Keystone defeated North Carolina and South Carolina before losing against Georgia to finish 2-1 in Pool A. But Keystone fell to Tennessee 6-3 in the semifinals.
Brandon Wright can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.