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Fielder’s Choice gets job done on softball diamond

Fielder’s Choice ‘02 beat the heat and the competition during an epic run on the second day of the Virginia NSA 12U State Championship tournament. Front row, from left, are Maddie “Maddog” Milne, Maddie Elias, Natalie Elias, Bella Radican, Calli Keyser and Ainsley Keyser. Back row consists of coach Kevin Bednoski, Sophie Pell, Sam Buckland, coach Chris Buckland, Sydney Bednoski, Casey Miller, Josie Krepps, Taylor Cameron and manager Mike Elias.—Courtesy Photo
"Whatever it takes." That's been the mantra of the Fielder's Choice '02 youth fastpitch softball team throughout the season.

That attitude was on full display during the final day of the Virginia NSA 12U State Championship tournament June 21 at Stoney Run Park in Newport News.

Shorthanded with four players injured and coming off a loss to close out the first day of the tournament, Fielder's Choice was faced with the task of needing to win seven consecutive games on day two to claim the title.

And they would have to do so in temperatures reaching the mid-90s with only five minutes between games.

"There was no complaining, we just did what we needed to do," manager Mike Elias said. "Everybody had that mindset that it did not matter how, we just had to get the job done."

Mission accomplished. Fielder's Choice reeled off five straight wins to survive the loser's bracket in the 20-team tournament, then produced consecutive one-run victories against previously undefeated Virginia Edge in the championship round.

Fielder's Choice, whose roster includes players from Ashburn, Hamilton, Leesburg, Purcellville, Winchester and even West Virginia, finished the double-elimination tournament with a 9-1 record, outscoring opponents 66-27.

"We got into a rhythm and just kept playing," Elias said of his team's 7-0 run on the final day. "There was no up and down, having to get excited again or get loose and warmed up for the next game. We were able to keep putting one foot in front of the other."

Like she had done throughout the tournament, Bella Radican limited Virginia Edge to two runs on three hits, while striking out five in game one of the finals to earn the pitching win.

Fielder's Choice scored two runs in the first and tacked on a solo run in the third inning of the 3-2 win. Sophie Pell and Sydney Bednoski smacked consecutive extra-base hits in the first, scoring Natalie Elias and Pell crossed home on Bednoski's hit.

Radican took the pitching circle for game two but only faced one batter before Samantha Buckland came on in relief.

"Bella just couldn't pitch anymore. She had given us everything that she had," Mike Elias explained. "Sam took the ball and kept them off balance."

While Radican would no longer be a factor in the circle, her hustle and instinct proved to be key in the game's defining play.

Trailing 2-0 in the fifth inning (a regulation game is six innings), Virginia Edge appeared poised to pull even when one of its players sent a shot into right field with a teammate on first base.

Fielder's Choice was playing an outfield shift to the left side and the hit took a hop past the right fielder and rolled to the outfield fence. Radican, now playing second base, raced out and tracked the ball down before firing a relay throw to shortstop Josie Krepps.

With the runner on first having scored and the batter attempting an inside-the-park home run, Krepps made an accurate throw home to Bednosky, who caught it and quickly turned to apply the tag just in time.

Buckland made the 2-1 lead stand to secure the win and the championship.

"That was the play of the game," Elias said. "It saved the game, no question in my mind."

Fielder's Choice plated its two runs in the second inning. Bednoski, Buckland and Radican delivered consecutive hits and Taylor Cameron produced an RBI groundout.

Elias credited the team's entire roster - including the injured players for their support - before giving a special nod to Bednoski.

"Sydney caught every pitch behind the plate in 95-degree heat. She hit clean up for us and was integral to scoring the runs versus Virginia Edge. She had a great weekend and especially a great day on Sunday."


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