PITTSFIELD - Everybody starts over again now at the Babe Ruth Softball 16-U World Series, as pool play comes to an end. The Berkshire Force didn't finish pool play undefeated, but considering how the night started, they're more than happy to be 3-1.
The Force bounced back from an afternoon loss to beat Hoquiam, Wash., and earn the sixth seed in this weekend's double-elimination section of the World Series.
The Force had to come back from the afternoon loss and an injury to Rachel Voller. Voller injured her left knee in pregame warmups. She was taken by ambulance to Berkshire Medical Center in Pittsfield for treatment. Voller returned for the fifth inning on crutches and with her left knee in a brace, and was on the field for the postgame handshakes.
"I think so," said Murphy. "It caught us all off guard. It was kind of weird because you have to forget about it, but you can't. You have to focus on the game and we did that."
"They dedicated the game to Rachel. They wanted to win it for Rachel," Force manager Jim Clary said. "They were all down at first and her sister Mir was pretty much down at first.
"The girls came around. We huddled together. They got Mir up and they talked to Rachel, and the girls' spirits were better."
Allie Hunt hit a fifth-inning, inside-the-park grand slam, and Murphy pitched six innings of shutout relief as the Force beat Hoquiam 8-2 in the final game of pool play Friday night at the Doyle Complex.
The Force lost to Fern Creek, Ky.
"It does start over. Everybody's on a 0-0 playing field," Hoquiam coach Bob Hyde said. "Everybody's equal now and we'll see what happens."
The Force will play Waretown, N.J., in one of three 10:30 a.m. games, and Hunt said she believes her team is in a good place after going 3-1 in pool play.
"Totally," said Hunt, who finished 2 for 3 with five runs batted in and three runs scored. "If we keep playing the way we can play, we can finish on top."
The Force got two runs in the first inning, but the team from Washington matched that.
Clary said Berkshire starter Ashley Keegan wasn't quite hitting her spots in the first inning, so he brought Murphy in. Murphy had pitched in the afternoon loss and said she was anxious to make amends.
"I was ready to go," said Murphy. "After this afternoon's game I wanted to come back and be a little stronger."
Keegan might have been out of the circle, but she drove in the winning run in the third, blooping a single behind shortstop that allowed Hunt to score from second base.
Then in the fifth, the Force got to starter Jillian Stewart for five runs. Four of them scored on Hunt's grand slam, her third inside-the-park homer of this tournament. She hit an 0-1 pitch to deep center and wasn't challenged as she rounded third and headed for home.
"I was just waiting for my pitch, and when I saw it, I just swung," said Hunt, who also hit a game-tying, three-run homer in the loss to Fern Creek. "It felt so good once you hit it perfect on the sweet spot."
"That shortstop's a heck of a ballplayer," the Washington coach said of Hunt. "You can't take anything away from her."
The rest of the night belonged to Murphy. The right-hander got rocked for six runs in the sixth inning against Fern Creek on Friday afternoon.
Murphy retired nine of the first 10 hitters she faced. She got some defensive help in the fifth and sixth innings to keep Hoquiam off the scoreboard. In the fifth, Murphy saw two runners thrown out at home plate, and second baseman Erin Murphy started an inning-ending double play in the sixth.
"I planned on just extra hitting, but [pitching coach Serina Stimpson] had me warm up before the game, so I was prepared," said Murphy. "The atmosphere kind of drove me tonight. It was a great crowd and playing under the lights is unlike anything else."