Southside ends season with stinging victory

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, August 3, 2005

If there was ever a group of young bridesmaids (as opposed to brides), the Southside Sting 14U softball team would be it.

Since beginning practice last October and tournaments in March, the local ladies played in 17 tournaments – and nearly every time, they were edged out at the end, finishing third in eight, including six of the last seven.

&uot;In the beginning, we had a ‘Let’s bust the rust,’ attitude,&uot; said coach Mark Giarrizzo. &uot;In every tournament, we progressed, getting better and better, but we couldn’t get over that last hump.&uot;

Email newsletter signup

After third place became an unsatisfactory charm at the Nitty Gritty Showcase in Richmond July 23-24, the girls appeared ready to call it quits for the year. But at the last minute, they decided to take part in the Crown Trophy Invitational in Hopewell this past Saturday.

At about eight that morning, the team pulled into Mathis Park for their fourth tourney there that year. An hour later, they were in action – but not for long, as Savannah Nuckols, Gillian Giarrizzo, Kristie Tew and Ashley Cornell scored three runs each in a 15-2 slaughter-rule-induced win over the Force (in youth softball, games are called if a team leads by 15 runs after three inning, 12 runs after four, and eight after five).

Their second game, which started at noon, was even quicker – Tew, Gillian and Dagmar Ralphs scored three each in a 16-1 defeat of the Stafford Stars. On the mound, Cornell and Erin Matthews combined for seven strikeouts and two hits.

Mark told his team to grab a quick snack, and the girls kicked back until just before 3 p.m., when they battled the Richmond Ruckus. Tew scored in the first, but the Richmond squad charged to a 5-1 lead to start the third inning.

Ralphs singled, and Tew knocked her in. Cornell batted home Tew with a two-bagger, and scored when Shelby Pendleton got a single. Haley Johnson singled home Pendleton to knot the score.

No one scored for the next two innings, but Pendleton pushed the Sting ahead in the sixth, and Tew batted home Nuckols for an insurance run in the seventh.

One win away from their first championship of the season, the girls watched the next two games. At about 7:30 p.m., they took the field again – and their opponent was none other than the Ruckus, which had made its way up through the loser’s bracket to reach the final of the double-elimination event.

In the bottom of the first, Ralph and Tew reached base. Then Gillian smoked a blast over the left-centerfield fence for her first homer of the year.

&uot;It was a shot!&uot; Mark said. &uot;It was like a rocket. We were all saying, ‘Did that go over?’&uot;

It had – but their cushion didn’t last; the Ruckus roared to a 5-3 lead in the third and held the Sting scoreless in the fourth. Then Gillian doubled to start the fourth, and Pendleton singled her home. Johnson knocked in Pendleton to tie the scored, and Erin got her in to go back ahead. Nuckols knocked home Matthews and was scored by Tew for an 8-5 lead.

They kept things going in the fifth; Cornell singled, Gillian walked and Pendleton singled to load the bases. Johnson drove home Cornell and Gillian, and Ashley Carroll singled in Pendleton. Matthews brought home Johnson, and the Sting had a 12-5 lead with two innings to play.

&uot;I was feeling great,&uot; Mark said. &uot;Things were looking great. I was thinking, ‘We got this.’ Then they unloaded on us.&uot;

Indeed; the Ruckus lived up to the team name in the sixth, scoring six runs to steal the momentum. Before his team headed to bat, Mark called them together.

&uot;I told them I wanted them to put together everything they’d learned during the season,&uot; he said. &uot;I told them to get rid of all those times they got eliminated. They could take this and go all the way.&uot;

Ralphs led off with a walk and Tew singled. Cornell doubled home Ralphs, and Gillian was hit by a pitch to load the bases. Pendleton was hit by a pitch to force home Tew, and Johnson doubled in Cornell and Gillian. Carroll walked, and Pendleton scored when Matthews grounded out, the team’s first out of the inning.

Then Nuckols drove a single to right-centerfield, and Johnson and Carroll scored to up the lead to eight – good enough for another slaughter win. Four months after playing their first tournament, and over 13 hours after arriving at Hopewell that morning, the Sting had finally grabbed its first championship.

&uot;Everybody was going crazy,&uot; Mark said. &uot;It had been a battle. We were up, then they were up, and then we went ballistic in the last inning.&uot;

Gillian got the tournament Most Valuable Player honor. Throughout the event, Pendleton had reached base 12 of 14 at-bats, with Tew getting on 11 of 15 chances and Johnson reaching 10 of 14.