MOUNT VERNON — After winning the regular-season title with a perfect 12-0 record, White Oak Farms had high expectations entering the 10 & Under Mount Vernon Girls Softball League Tournament. A 2-1 loss in the first game of the tournament to McCluskey’s Fire Extinguishers on Friday, however, stunned the champs and knocked them into the loser’s bracket.
White Oak Farms responded, though, by winning three games Saturday and four games on Sunday, including the final two over Benchmark Cabinets, to take the tournament title. White Oak Farms won the first championship game, 7-4, then took the second championship contest, 5-1.
“This is great,” said White Oak Farms coach Sara Lawhon. “The thing I am most proud of is that we have 12 hitters. We have 12 girls that, when they step up to the plate, I know they can hit the ball. That’s a great thing to have as a coach. That’s really what saved us the entire time.
“... Also, coming out of the loser’s bracket, I am amazed because we played three games [Saturday] and four games straight [Sunday]. We got better as we went, and that is what I am proud of.”
Early in the second championship game, it looked like the last team to score would win. Benchmark Cabinets took the lead in the top of the first inning. Haley Priest reached on a single with one out and moved up on a fielder’s choice by Maddi Drabick. Taylor Gregory then drove her in with an RBI single up the middle to make it a 1-0 game, but that was the last hit Benchmark got in the game.
“We could have done a little better, but there was a good pitcher on the other side,” said Benchmark coach Greg Drabick. “They are a good team, and they finished first in the regular season. We were always one step behind them.”
White Oak answered in the bottom of the inning with a run of its own. Kennedy Farmer walked to lead off, moved to third on a wild pitch and came around to score on an RBI single by Veronica Schermerhorn. The hit tied the game at 1, but it was just the beginning for White Oak.
Kristal Latham reached on an error with one out in the second inning, then stole second base. She scored on a single by Kari Bartley, putting White Oak Farms ahead for good, 2-1.
“The game we lost was wonderful,” coach Lawhon said. “It was a pitcher’s duel and ended 2-1. McCluskey’s pitcher just brought it to us. If anything, it was a good wake-up call that we needed to get our bats out, and that’s what we did. We really brought them the next seven games.”
After going three up, three down in the top of the second, Benchmark managed base runners in each of the last three innings, but could never get the hit it needed. White Oak Farms, meanwhile, broke the game open in the bottom of the third.
“It was tough, but I thought we were more focused in the second game,” said coach Drabick. “We just couldn’t get the runs when we needed to. ... We couldn’t put anything together.”
Cassie Tullos walked to lead off the inning, but Benchmark pitcher Gregory looked to be working out of the jam with a strikeout and a pop foul. Schermerhorn came through, however, with an RBI double. Makenzie Montgomery followed with a single up the middle, and Erin Lawhon broke the inning open with a two-RBI single to left. That gave White Oak a hefty 5-1 lead.
“Against Benchmark, I really didn’t feel comfortable with anything,” said coach Lawhon. “They can honestly get one or two on base, and then they have a number of kids that can crank home runs. I wasn’t comfortable, but with the way our girls were playing defense, I was confident.”
Benchmark continued to battle until the end, but White Oak was able to withstand whatever came its way.
“When we got through their heavy hitters in the top of the fourth inning, it was a really good feeling to know that we just had to pitch strikes and do the fundamentals,” coach Lawhon said. “Benchmark is a worthy adversary. They are certainly the one that we’ve had to be on our top game against. We happened to bring our top game all three times we beat them [this season].”
Complete tournament results will be available in a future edition of the News.