By Hunter Nusz

The Western Sussex Junior League all-star softball team won the Delaware District III championship on Wednesday, defeating Laurel in the rubber match 6-5. After winning the first game of the championship series 5-4 in extras the day before, Western Sussex faced off against Laurel in the rubber match for the district title. 

Both teams started the same pitchers from the previous game. Kendall Scott started on the mound for Western Sussex and Cameron Patterson started for Laurel. Just like the day before, Laurel struck first in the second inning, Isabella Brittingham drove in the game’s first run with an RBI single. 

Aryiana Lake of Western Sussex reaches first base safely after the ball gets out of reach for Satisha Louis. Photo by Hunter Nusz

Laurel had an opportunity to extend the lead in the top of the third, getting the bases loaded but failed to score. That would immediately come back to hurt them as Western Sussex exploded for six runs in the bottom half of the third. Ally Bennett drove in two runs with a single, Bobbie Smith and Kendall Scott both drew walks with the bases loaded making the score 4-1, and two fielding errors lead to two more runs coming in. Western Sussex led 6-1 after three. 

Backed into a corner with their season on the line, Laurel responded immediately in the top of the fourth. Jailah Shockley grounded out but it drove in a run. Patterson drove in a run with a bunt and Julionna Casiano knocked in two runs with a double. Laurel went from being down 6-1 to 6-5 in just half an inning. 

By this point both teams had switched pitchers, Gabi Gianacoplis had come into the game for Laurel, and Rogue Garcia came in to pitch for Western Sussex. Both teams matched each other in the fifth and sixth innings. Each team left one runner on base in the fifth and each team had a 1-2-3 inning in the sixth. 

Laurel was the visiting team, so it needed at least one run to keep their season going. On the other side, Western Sussex needed three outs to become district champions. In a nervey top of the seventh inning it looked like it could go either way. Western Sussex got the first out of the inning then Laurel got a base hit. Laurel eventually got the bases loaded with two outs. With a full count Rogue Garcia fired a pitch down the middle that the Laurel batter swung and missed at for the final out. Western Sussex was now district champions, the team that had lost their opening game of the tournament to Laurel ran the table every game after and brought home the title. 

Western Sussex coach Steve Durham talked about what he told his team after the opening loss and how they played afterwards, “I told them there’s a lot of tournament left, they have a lot of heart.” Durham continued, “Credit to Laurel, they’re a great program, any one of these games could’ve gone any way with Laurel. We had a game plan, we switched it up after the first loss and we stuck with it. We kept riding that all the way to the last game with a few adjustments, Rogue came out and finished the second game and did phenomenal. Everybody was firing on all cylinders, everyone did their job, overall, as a team I couldn’t be happier.”