Danny Pruett hopes to be making Florida hotel reservations after tonight.
The winner of this evening’s (Thursday’s) state title contest between his Madison County Little League all-stars and Pioneer Little League travels to St. Petersburg, Fla. for the Little League softball all-star regionals, which start next Thursday.
“I’m excited about it, the girls are excited and they’re relaxed and ready to go play and win this game,” Pruett said of tonight’s championship contest.
Madison County’s Little League all-stars face-off against Pioneer at 8:15 p.m. at West Point Little League.
The Madison County all-stars beat Oconee County, 6-2, to advance to the championship round and is 7-0 in all-star play at this point. The team won all four of its games at the district level and then its first three at state. It has allowed just seven runs the entire all-star season.
“Our game has been throw the ball across the plate and let our defense do the job,” Pruett said.
And that’s just what’s happened.
Madison County has committed just two errors in three games at state. Behind the plate, Ivie Drake continues to throw out would-be base-stealers. In fact, she gunned down a runner by 10 feet for the final out of last night’s win over Oconee County.
Tonight’s championship game is a rematch of a Monday game between Madison County and Pioneer.
Madison County won that game, 2-0, and then cruised past West Point Little League, 11-1, Tuesday to finish first in pool play. That gave the team a no. 1 seed in the semifinals.
The top two teams from each pool reach the semifinals. Pioneer was the other team in Madison County’s pool to advance. Once teams advance out of pool play, any loses a team had are erased and a single elimination format is implemented for the semifinals.
So undefeated Madison County would find itself in an unfortunate situation should it lose tonight. Pioneer would take the title, even though Madison County would have gone 1-1 in head-to-head match-ups with Pioneer.
While Pruett acknowledges those circumstances, he said this is still a great opportunity.
“What we’ve told our girls — the first goal was to win district,” Pruett said. “And I said, ‘Who would have ever thought we could be playing for the state championship?’ That’s a great honor. Win or lose, you girls are one of the two last teams in the state of Georgia that are standing.”
Madison County is still swinging a hot bat at state, hitting between .360 and .370 with only two strikeouts in three games. The team has put pressure on opposing defenses by consistently putting the ball in play.
“There’s a great chance that they (opponents) are going to make a mistake and/or you’re going to get a base hit, and that’s just what we’ve been doing,” Pruett said.
Annabeth Pruett, who’s hitting .625 at state, went 2-for-3 and scored two runs against Oconee County. Cheyenne Pridgen, batting .500 for the tournament, also drove home scores in the victory. Kristen Moran picked up RBIs as well. Drake, who had an outstanding district tournament and is hitting .400 at state, got things started last night by ripping a lead-off triple to the fence.
Tonight’s opponent has some big hitters, too — literally. Pruett said three or four girls in Pioneer’s lineup are 5’9" or 5’10.”
“That’s some big girls to be 11-and-12-year-old kids … They’ve got a couple that can hit it to the fence and hit the fence several times,” Pruett said.
The manager said his team’s job is to keep those other hitters off base tonight and minimize what Pioneer’s power hitters do at the plate.
“That’s what we did very well the last time we faced them,” Pruett said.
Because Alexis Damron worked six innings in relief in last night’s win, she’s unavailable for tonight’s championship game.
Annabeth Pruett, a power pitcher, and Hayley Gordon, who changes speeds well, will try to pitch Madison County to the state title victory.
Pruett said he “feels like we have a good chance.”
“What we’ve told our girls is to play our game,” he said. “We don’t try to play the other team’s game. We try to find their weaknesses.”
THE ROAD TO STATE: A LOOK BACK AT DISTRICT
Pruett’s team cranked out a .424 batting average and plated 35 runs in its march to the district title in early July.
Madison County scored 34 of those runs in three easy wins — beating Franklin County 8-2, Toccoa 14-0 in four innings and Hart County 12-2 in five innings — before surviving a 1-0 pitchers’ dual against Franklin County. Alexis Damron hurled a shutout in that game to clinch the district title.
Madison County pitching allowed just four runs at district.
Damron won both decisions over Franklin County with speed and precision, pitching “the game of her life,” Pruett said, in the 1-0 championship win, while Hayley Gordon and Annabeth Pruett effectively limited the opposing bats in the other two wins.
The offense was just as impressive with the team batting an aggregate .424. Six girls hit .500 or better at district.
“At any level, at anything you do, that’s pretty impressive,” Pruett said.
Lead off hitter Ivie Drake was the catalyst with some arresting statistics — .800 batting average and a .933 on-base average. Other big bats were Annabeth Pruett, who drove home five runs against Hart County, and Cheyenne Pridgen, who was 2-for-2 against Franklin County and collected game-winning RBI.
Pruett said that everyone got on base and contributed.
“When you’re hitting .400, obviously the team is doing a great job from top to bottom,” he said.
In fact, the bats are what Pruett said really carried his team through district.
He noted that the overwhelming offensive support in the first three games allowed him to save his top two pitchers for the title matchup. Both Damron and Annabeth Pruett were ready for the championship game, though only Damron was used.
“The hitting is really what has carried us through it, that and our defense,” Pruett said.
He noted “great” outfield play from Annabeth Pruett and Elizabeth Stoyle while the infield was anchored with “great plays” from Kristen Moran at shortstop and Jorden Williams at third with Drake throwing out multiple runners stealing from the catchers position.
I would like to say that i am proud of the team.i just wish that every one could have played.some of the parents felt as if the coach was showing favortisom.by letting some of the girls play every inning of the games.
while some only got to play 1or2 innings a game.the girls that sat out are good or they would not have made the school ball team.i think they all should have got a fair chance.
this has changed the way some girls feel about all stars,even those that got to play.