Local team captures state championship, advances to regionals

Published 12:28 am Sunday, July 9, 2017

Without an ounce of hesitation, Vidalia Little League All-Star shortstop Tierra Jefferson scooped up a ground-hit ball and swiftly flung it to Tiona Ellis at first base to end the fourth inning.

On any other day Jefferson’s toss would have been just a routine out, but on Saturday night in front of a home crowd the 14-and-under squad savored the moment.

Vidalia claimed the Junior League Louisiana State Championship with a 12-1 win in 4 innings, sweeping Lake Charles in a best-of-three series. It won Game 1 Friday in Lake Charles, 6-5.

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“Before the game I told them that it was all about how bad they want it,” Vidalia coach Donald Bertelsen said. “If we didn’t come in here playing hard, we would have been playing a third game tonight. They didn’t want a third game. This is awesome.”

After a scoreless first inning, Vidalia exploded in the second to take a 7-0 lead. Its sweet spot was left centerfield, with Allie Feltus hitting a single to lead off and Jefferson, Fisher Isminger and Alyssa Cupstid all nailing doubles.

Feltus also hit a triple to the same spot before the inning was retired.

“Last night we came out sluggish, and tonight we came out hitting the ball. They showed their potential,” Bertelsen said. “After weeks and weeks of practice, we practice hitting every single time. It’s about time.”

Vidalia’s offense kept rolling into the third as Maddison Kenedy found left center field once more, but this time it was over the fence. She also drove in Latierra Lee on the two-run homer to expand the lead.

“I honestly didn’t know I hit it over the fence,” Kenedy said. “I was thinking about running, and as soon as I got to the shortstop the umpire told me I could slow down. I was proud.”

Vidalia’s defense also had a strong showing, allowing Lake Charles just three hits on the night.

Rebecca Cowen pitched all four innings to earn the win. She recorded two strikeouts.

Cowen said the home field advantage was all she needed to lead her team to the title.

“I knew we had the home crowd,” she said. “We did it. All that practice paid off.”

Bertelsen also said he is thankful to have the support of the community.

“Home field advantage is one thing, but to win at home is amazing,” he said. “This is the first time I’ve ever had (a state championship win) happen at home.”

With the win, Vidalia will advance as one of eight teams to the Little League Southwest Regional beginning on July 22 in Los Alamos, N.M.

Just one team from the regional will advance to the World Series.

“We have a battle ahead of us,” Bertelsen said.

For now, however, Bertelson said he wants his team to enjoy its success.

“You never know what you are going to get day-to-day with them, but there is something special about them,” he said. “They are ready to celebrate.”