SALISBURY, N.C. — Don’t underestimate the heart of Morristown’s Junior League Softball All-Stars.
Unfazed by a six-run deficit, they proved themselves worthy of competing for the Southern Region championship in their tournament opener Friday.
Morristown rallied to pull even with South Carolina’s state champion Darlington before coming up just short in a 13-11 setback to begin region tournament action.
“The girls played their hearts out,” Morristown manager John Gullion said. “There are some things they could’ve done better and that’s always going to be the case in softball, but really the manager made some mistakes that really cost his girls today. I’m really proud of these girls the way they fought.”
Although Morristown surrendered the two eventual game-winning runs in the top of the seventh inning, the damage could’ve been worse had Adasia Davis not caught a line drive and relief pitcher Kali Turner not struck out one batter and then picked off a runner at first.
Morristown failed to answer in the bottom half of the inning, though, the closest call being a deep fly ball by Haylee Smith which just went foul.
Trailing 8-2 going to the bottom of the fourth, Nevaeh Grooms got Morristown going with a leadoff single before Kaleah Davis and Zayle Elkins did likewise. Adasia Davis brought home a pair of runs, and Turner cracked a bases-loaded double to the gap in left-center to plate two more and cut the deficit to 8-6.
“Kali swings the bat so well,” Gullion said. “When she’s got that confidence in her stroke then she can just drill it, and she’s also an excellent bunter for us.”
Even after South Carolina got one run back in the top of the fifth, Grooms stepped up again and led off with a triple. A walk by Kaleah Davis and singles by Elkins and Adasia Davis along with a throwing error allowed two runs to score.
Turner relieved Elkins in the pitcher’s circle in the sixth inning and recorded the last out, with Morristown trailing 11-8 after 5 1/2 innings.
Braelyn Treece and Grooms both took ball four sandwiched around a single by Turner. Two fielder’s choices and an Adasia Davis single later, all three had scored to pull Morristown even 11-11 after six frames.
Elkins and Adasia Davis led Morristown with three hits apiece while Grooms and Turner each added two.
“Nevaeh Grooms was outstanding. She was a monster at the plate, caught the whole way and really was a presence in the dugout that kept us up when all the girls were hot and tired,” Gullion said. “Zayle fought through some pain and battled her heart out through the heat. She kept fighting even though sometimes we didn’t make the plays behind her we needed to, and Kaleah made a couple of fantastic catches in center field.”
And Adasia Davis’ defense along with an Elkins strikeout helped Morristown escape a bases-loaded jam in the first inning.
Grooms broke the scoreless after drawing a leadoff walk and coming home on an error at third base, and Elkins scored for a 2-0 lead after getting on with a base hit.
But South Carolina bounced back with three runs in the second inning and five in the third while keeping Morristown scoreless until its fourth-inning rally.
Kaleah Davis singled for Morristown, which will play for survival at 10:30 a.m. on Saturday morning against the loser of West Virginia vs. Virginia or Florida.