Vidalia Nationals ride strong pitching, defense to win

Published 12:01 am Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Winn Parish’s Riketta Russell is tagged out at third base by Vidalia’s Leah Havard Monday night during the Little League Softball 11- and 12-year olds State Tournament. Vidalia advanced with a 2-1 win over Winn Parish. (Ben Hillyer \ The Natchez Democrat)

VIDALIA — Don’t tell Shelbie Vinet that the last three outs are always the hardest.

With a 2-1 lead in the bottom of the sixth, Vinet was coming off an inning where she escaped a bases-loaded situation to prevent the Winn Parish 11- and 12-year-old All-Stars from tying the game.

The starter for the Vidalia Nationals 11- and 12-year-old All-Stars needed a clean inning to close things out, and she got exactly that: a strikeout and two groundouts to secure the 2-1 win.

Email newsletter signup

“I wanted to hold them, because I wanted to win,” Vinet said, “so I had to try my best.”

With the win, the Vidalia Nationals moved on to the next round of the Little League Softball state championship. The Nationals will play the Vidalia Americans at 6 tonight.

“Our defense kept us in the game,” Nationals head coach Wesley McCarver said. “We had a great game by Shelbie Vinet, and we just stayed tough and kept our heads up, even when they had girls on base. We pushed through.”

The game had its share of close calls for the Nationals. In the bottom of the fifth inning, Vinet issued back-to-back walks to the first two batters she faced before she got the next two batters on a fielder’s choice and an infield popup. The next batter hit a ground ball to shortstop Katlyn McCarver that looked like it would end the scoring threat, but she bobbled the ball, loading the bases for Winn Parish.

“I had to get myself together (after that play) and make a good play the next time,” Katlyn McCarver said.

And that’s just what she did. Winn Parish hit another ground ball right at Katlyn in the very next at-bat, and Katlyn fielded it cleanly, throwing the runner out at second to end the inning.

“It felt good,” Katlyn McCarver said about coming back and making the next play, “because I knew my team could count on me to do that.”

Vinet’s only other shaky inning was the bottom of the third. After Vinet issued a walk and another batter reached on an error, Winn Parish’s Emily Barnett singled in Bikeeta Russell to score its only run. Vinet said her team was what allowed her to limit the damage when she let girls reach base.

“They supported me and encouraged me,” Vinet said. “The defense was really good.”

Vinet went all six innings, giving up one run on one hit with four walks and eight strikeouts. She hit two batters, and two batters reached base on errors.

“She was really consistent with her strikes,” Wesley McCarver said. “She didn’t give up a lot, and when we got in a bind, our defense got out of it. They played great today.”

Vinet scored the team’s first run in the top of the first. After singling, she stole second and then took third on an errant throw. A wild pitch by Winn Parish starter Amanda Hyman allowed Vinet to score, giving the Nationals an early 1-0 lead.

After Winn Parish tied the game 1-1 in the bottom of the third, the Nationals took the lead right back in the top of the fourth on a single by Darby Beach that scored Katlyn McCarver. Beach finished the game 2-for-2.

The winner of tonight’s matchup between the Vidalia Nationals and Americans will go on to play Shreveport in the championship round Wednesday.