Rival Sussex County ends Dist. 1’s softball World Series repeat bid

ROXANA – Regan Green is best known in softball circles for her work as a pitcher.

But Wednesday evening the District III Sussex County all-star and former Laurel High standout made even more noise at the plate than from the rubber.

Shaina Reed is mobbed by teammates after her three-run home run. (The Journal/Jeff Mitchell)

Shaina Reed is mobbed by teammates after her three-run home run. (The Journal/Jeff Mitchell)

In the bottom of the seventh, two innings after belting a game-tying three-run home run in a pivotal Big League Softball World Series Pool B game against U.S. East’s Delaware District I, Green singled home teammate Jenna Tate for a walkoff 7-6 District III victory.

The win, coupled with District III’s victory over Europe/Africa later Wednesday night, assured the 2013 world champions at least a spot in Friday’s semifinals. District III (3-0) will play U.S. Southwest (3-0) today to determine which team enters Friday’s nationally televised games as the pool champion.

“We had one out, we were in the middle of the lineup and I knew my teammates would have my back, so it was kind of nice,” Green said of her thoughts stepping into the batter’s box in the seventh with the winning run on third. “I was just trying to get the ball in play, make contact and hit it to the right side.”

Wednesday’s game between the two Delaware teams was originally scheduled for last Sunday, but an illness that sidelined more than half the District I (Kent County) roster forced both squads to play doubleheaders.

District I played its first game of the double-dip prior to the bout with its southern Delaware rival and lost 5-3 to the Southwest. Falling to 2-2 in pool play with the loss to the Sussex County squad essentially eliminated the defending World Series champions from contention.

“I’m proud of the girls, the way they battled,” District I Manager Ron Fry said. “They did a great job battling back with everything that happened.”

Through the first four innings versus District III, it looked like District I would keep its semifinals hopes alive with a win.

Losing pitcher Shaina Reed quickly put her team in front with a three-run home run in the top of the first inning and Whitney DeMora’s two-run single in the second gave District I a 5-0 advantage.

Batting in the No. 9 spot, Shelby Wilkins put District III on the board in the bottom of the second inning with a two-run blast over the centerfield fence that boosted her team’s spirit. It was her first ever home run in a live softball game.

“I just thought it was linedrive to right-center field when I hit it, but when I saw it went over I was really excited,” said Wilkins, whose father, Guy, manages the District III team.

Jenna Willey shows the ump the ball after Dist. I's  Faith Garey is caught stealing. (The Journal/Jeff Mitchell).

Jenna Willey shows the ump the ball after Dist. I’s Faith Garey is caught stealing. (The Journal/Jeff Mitchell).

“Emotionally that was a big moment,” Guy Wilkins said of his daughter’s home run. “She’d never hit one in a game. She still has a pitching machine ball in her (bat) bag from where she hit one in practice.”

Cassetty Howerin answered with a mammoth solo home run to left in the top of the third that gave the Kent County all-stars a 6-2 lead but District III got the run back in the home half of the inning when Morgan Smith doubled and then came home on Hailey Andrews’ RBI single.

Working in relief of Andrews from the pitcher’s circle, Green allowed District I a pair of singles to start the fourth and issued a one-out walk to load the bases but got out the jam unharmed after an infield popout and a flyout to center.

Including the two outs to end the fourth, Green retired the final 11 batters she faced. She tossed 5 1/3 innings to pick up the win, allowed four hits and one run – Howerin’s homer – and struck out nine.

“You have to find your groove, that’s what I was trying to do,” Green said. “And my team was making the plays behind me, so I just had to settle down.”

Still trailing 6-3 in the bottom of the fifth, District III got a leadoff walk from Alexis Burger but Reed kept the next two batters in the infield to record a pair of outs before walking Andrews and bringing Green to the plate.

Looking to at least keep the inning going, Green instead lined her game-tying three-run home run over the fence in center, igniting both her teammates and the large crowd gathered at the Pyle Center.

“It was almost like a home tournament,” Green said. “All the fans out here, it’s always a nice feeling when you do something like that.”

Now District III, which fell to District I in last year’s World Series final, will look to win its second championship in three years. One key to doing so, Guy Wilkins said, will be making sure the all-stars stay levelheaded after eliminating their Kent County rival.

“You can’t come off a great high like that and get too low here,” Wilkins said prior to his team’s 5-2 victory over Europe/Africa that clinched a semifinals berth. “We still have to play softball.”

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