JENSEN BEACH, FLA. — After dropping the first two games of pool play in the 16U World Series, the Berkshire Force are now on a three-game winning streak after winning a pair of elimination games on Sunday.
The Force opened tournament play with a 6-2 win over WVAC-Debary — the No. 2 seed that beat the Force 3-2 in pool play — to advance in the winner's bracket, then in the afternoon the Force rolled to an 8-0 win over Denver Eclipse.
"[My players] played tremendous in both games," coach Mark Pierson said. "Two good games. Our defense really stepped up and Ashley [Keegan] pitched great.
"Our bunting and stealing and everything, slapping, we did great. Teams were really flustered."
The Force were led in both games by Keegan, who pitched a pair of complete games. Keegan gave up five hits on eight strikeouts and no earned runs against Debary while allowing one hit to Denver on six strike outs and one walk. Against Denver, Keegan faced only 22 batters — one over the minimum of 21 a pitcher has to face in a seven-inning contest.
In the tournament so far, Keegan has pitched 28 1/3 innings and struck out 36 batters against 17 hits, five walks and 10 runs — one earned.
"She's experienced," Pierson said of his pitcher. "She's been here before and she's older than most of the kids. I think she's saying 'this is my last chance, let's get it done now.'
"I've seen a tremendous development over the last year. Instead of just throwing, she's pitching now."
With the pair of wins, the Force advance to the winner's bracket final Monday at 6 p.m. against host Jensen Beach, the top seed in the tournament. The winner of that game advances to the championship game on Tuesday at 6 p.m.
In the morning contest against WVAC-Debary, the Force grabbed a 1-0 lead after a half an inning, then a three-run third provided enough cushion to see out the win.
In the first inning, Britney Perkett reached home on an error to open the scoring. In the third, Keegan hit a two-run single to right field to score Kailey Bell and Perkett, then Toni Satrape hit a single to center that scored Hayley Tobin.
Leading 4-0 in the fifth, Berkshire tacked on two more insurance runs through a sacrifice fly from Keegan that allowed Perkett to tag up and score, and a passed ball that allowed Tobin to score from third.
Tobin and Keegan both had multi-hit days. Tobin went 2 for 4 with a double and two runs scored, while Keegan went 2 for 3 with three runs batted in.
"It was amazing," Pierson said of getting revenge. "Right from the get-go we had great emotion.
"We scored early and stayed on top of it the whole game. We played our game."
Against Denver, the Force again grabbed a lead in the first inning as Bell scored on a ground out by Elena Cerveira. Then the runs kept coming.
In the second, Natasha Shade singled to plate Erin Murphy and open the lead to 2-0. In the third Tobin plated Perkett on a ground out, then in the fifth Bell brought in Shade on a single and a Keegan fielder's choice allowed Perkett to score again. Giuliana Pierce stole home in the sixth for the team's sixth run, Bell scored when Perkett reached on a dropped third strike, and in the seventh Satrape grounded out to short and allowed Tobin to reach home.
Tobin finished the game 3 for 4 with the run scored and the run batted in. Perkett went 2 for 4 with two runs scored, Bell finished 2 for 3 with a ribbie and two runs scored, and Shade finished 2 for 3 with a RBI and a run scored.
14U moving on
The Berkshire Force 14U softball team kept its bid for a Babe Ruth Softball World Series championship alive with a 4-2 win over North Buncombe on Sunday to start double-elimination play.
The win advances the Force to the semifinals of the winner's bracket and a game against TCAA Wildcats Monday at 10 a.m. The winner of that game advances to the winner's bracket final Monday night at 6 p.m., while the loser falls into the loser's bracket at a 2 p.m. contest Monday.
Against North Buncombe, the Force put up two runs in the bottom of the second to take a 2-0 lead, then after North Buncombe got one run back to start the fourth the Force pushed the winning run across in the bottom of the inning when Madison Tobin scored on an error.
In the second inning, Taea Bramer and Jordyn Lummus scored on ground outs from Sarah McMahon and Payton O'Connell, respectively. In the fifth, O'Connell scored a run on an error to cap the scoring.
"We pride ourselves on our base running," Force coach Jim Clary said. "We call it controlled chaos on the bases. We've been working on it [all summer]."
Clary noted that O'Connell, for the second day in a row, turned a trip to first base into a trip to home, and that her base running highlights what the Force are trying to do.
The Force managed only four hits in the game, but they were enough to beat North Buncombe pitcher Nakaila Marler, who pitched all six innings and struck out nine batters on four walks.
"[North Buncombe] played this morning. Went and watched it, sat behind home plate," Clary said of scouting Marler. "She had a lot of movement on the ball. So, we just went right to the small ball, kept it small. Some finesse and base running.
For Berkshire, Mary Lee tossed all seven innings. She struck out four on six hits and two walks and one earned run.
"She is an absolute workhorse," Clary said of Lee. "She wants the ball, she never wants to come out.
"She is working her butt off every single game and she has a great defense behind her. She's not going to overpower girls ... girls are going to hit the ball, and the defense has to make the plays."
In the field, Clary noted that Lummus, in particular, has been "phenomenal" at second base.
"She hasn't made a mistake," Clary said, "she has been everywhere. Everyone has helped out in one way or another."