After outscoring opponents 42-3 in winning all four games during pool play, the 12U Loudoun Storm were two outs away from being defeated in the first game of the elimination round against the South Jersey Mystics in the PONY Nationals fastpitch softball tournament.
Undaunted, Olivia Badura hit a sacrifice fly to score Taylor Yokum and tied the game at 3-3 in the ninth inning to extend the game, contested July 21 at Potomack Lakes Sportsplex in Sterling.
After relief pitcher Jordan Crigger struck out a Mystic batter with the bases loaded in the 10th, she delivered a walk-off single in the bottom half to score Shelbie Daughtry with the winning run.
“I was really nervous, but I thought I could come through for the team,” said Crigger, who finished with three hits. “I just wanted to get the final run in there to win it.”
The Storm are one of several Loudoun teams competing in the Protect Our Nation's Youth Nationals. The tournament
will crown champions in five age divisions with games played at parks in Ashburn, Sterling and Leesburg. Play in the 10U, 12U and 14U divisions wraps up July 23, while the 16U and 18U age groups began tournament play July 22 and continue through July 26.
Following a flawless start in round robin play that earned them the No. 1 seed, the Storm twice had to battle back from late-inning deficits against the No. 4 seed Mystics.
“This team doesn’t give up ... they refused to lose," Storm head coach Jim Daughtry said. “That was a tough game, they’re a good team and made very few mistakes. We left a lot of runners on base and didn’t take advantage. But we went to extra innings and we were able to tough it out.”
Mikayla Luyber singled home two runs with two outs in the sixth to give South Jersey a 2-1 lead. The Storm responded in the home half of the sixth when Crigger doubled and scored on Molly Malacarne’s RBI single. It would stay tied at 2-2 until each team scored in the ninth.
“That’s one of our most hard-fought games we’ve played this year, we’re happy to get the win,” Badura explained. “It gives us confidence to win as a team going forward.”
Badura scored the game’s first run in the opening inning thanks to a Maxime Barnes' sacrifice fly. Storm starting pitcher Payton Schaaf cruised through her first five innings of work. Even though she allowed two runs in the sixth and one in the ninth, Schaaf battled through eight and one-third innings to keep her team in the game.
“I’ve probably never thrown that many innings before,” Schaaf said. “I was a little tired, but I kept thinking I could push through it and my teammates would continue making plays. We didn’t expect this type of game at all.”
The Storm finished second in this tournament with the same group as 10-year-olds.
-Photos by Rick Wasser