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Vidalia falls in regional title game

PINEVILLE, La. — The Vidalia 13-to-16-year-old Senior League Softball All-Stars had two golden opportunities to take the lead on Texas West and perhaps chase pitcher Henessey Soto out of the game.

Instead, Soto threw big pitch after big pitch to get out of both one-out jams as she preserved Texas West’s 3-2 win over Vidalia Tuesday afternoon to win the Southwest Regional Tournament at Coca-Cola Field on the campus of Louisiana College and advance to the Little League Softball World Series.

Even though Soto wasn’t as proficient as she was in the first meeting between the two teams early in the tournament, a 6-1 win by Texas West (San Antonio) in which she struck out 10 batters and allowed just four hits, she made sure that Vidalia would not force a second and deciding game for the championship.

In the bottom of the fourth inning and trailing 3-2, Vidalia had the bases loaded and just one out. But Vidalia could not come up with the big hit that would have at least tied the game as Soto induced a fly ball to the first baseman for the second out and a popup to the shortstop for the third out.

Then in the bottom of the seventh inning, Soto got some big-time defensive help. KeKe Collins singled, stole second and went to third on a sacrifice bunt by Savannah Johnston. After Soto struck out the next batter, Ginny Daggett came up to bat.

“Ginny hit the ball up against the fence in deep right centerfield, and they made an amazing catch. If she doesn’t make the catch, the run scores and Ginny has a triple. We have a good chance to win it,” Vidalia head coach Rut Horne said.

Both Soto and Vidalia pitcher Mollie Devening went the distance for each team. Devening allowed one earned run on eight hits, struck out two and walked just one batter. Soto allowed two runs on eight hits, struck out five and walked two.

“I normally don’t pitch my pitchers the whole game. But I thought (Mollie) was in control,” Horne said. “She pitched a heck of a game. She could’ve won it. She’s the middle pitcher in our rotation.”

Instead, two costly errors that allowed the first two batters for Texas West to reach base proved to be the difference. The first run scored on a fielder’s choice and the second run scored on a ground ball to shortstop.

“Maybe a little opening jitters. Take away the first inning and we win the ball game,” Horne said.

Vidalia scored its first run of the game in the bottom of the first when Collins singled, stole second, stole third and came home on an Ellen Bairnsfather single

Texas West made it a 3-1 game in the top of the third inning when Ryler Moreno doubled and scored on a two-out single to left field by Aragones. Vidalia cut the lead to one run in the bottom of the third when Bairnsfather walked, stole second, stole third and scored on an overthrow to third base.

“We were that close to going to the (Little League) World Series,” Horne said. “I feel real confident about next year’s group. We have everyone back next year except Allison Hauer and Taylor Morace. Those were our only two 16-year-olds.”

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