Full recap: District III finishes strong, places third at Softball World Series

ROXANA — District III finished the 2018 Senior League Softball World Series just as they started it: by defeating the U.S. East squad from Worcester, Mass.

With a 5-1 win over East in the Sunday, Aug. 5 consolation game, the Sussex County squad made up of Georgetown/Cape girls capped the 2018 series with a third-place finish and a 6-1 record over the seven-day tourney at Lower Sussex Little League in Roxana.

It wasn’t quite what they did in the 10-team tourney last season – win the whole thing – but being the third-best team in the world certainly isn’t an easy task, either.

Front row (L-R): Macy Layfield, Taylor Wroten, Skylar Webb, Kayla Evans. Back row (L-R): coach Paul Kruger, Amanda Coates, Kylie Kruger, Kelsey Kormanik, Sierra Livingston, Ryleigh Elliott, Hadlie Jarvis, Siera Jones, Jordyn DiFava, coach Robin Wroten, manager Craig Kormanik (Sussex Post/Glenn Rolfe).

“I think it was good for us to be able to come out and finish strong,” said starting pitcher Taylor Wroten. “We played this team before and blew them out, but they put up a really good fight today.”

Wroten finished the tournament by tossing every pitch from the pitcher’s circle for the second year in a row, finishing the seven games with a 1.07 ERA and 50 strikeouts in 53.0 innings pitched.

A hard-fought 2-1 loss to U.S. Southwest in Saturday night’s semifinal showdown is what set the defending District III squad up in the tourney’s consolation game.

Southwest would go on to fall to Asia-Pacific, 7-0, in Sunday afternoon’s title game. Asia-Pacific pitcher Royevel Palma tossed a two-hit shutout, striking out 15 batters in the championship victory.

For the District III girls, who won it all in 2017, Wroten tossed seven innings of one-run ball with five strikeouts to close out the team’s sixth win of the week.

Offensively, District III’s bats provided nine hits, including a three-hit day from Ryleigh Elliott and a pair of hits from Kylie Kruger and Hadlie Jarvis. Kelsey Kormanik and Kayla Evans had one hit each.

“After the loss last night it’s tough to get up and play this morning, but we all just came with energy,” said Elliott. “We still wanted to win, we still wanted to have fun and it was our last game playing with some of these people so that was good.”

“We played as a team every single game and if we didn’t do that we would not have won all those games – especially that Southwest game on Tuesday,” said Kruger. “We went 12 innings and it was the same score last night, but if we didn’t play as a team we wouldn’t have done so well this week.”

District III didn’t waste any time getting on the board, plating the game’s first run in the bottom of the first inning off a Sierra Livingston sacrifice fly, scoring Elliott.

East answered in the top half of the second inning, putting up its lone run of the game on a Paige Hubacz RBI single to tie the game up 1-1.

Kruger doubled in Siera Jones in the bottom of the third inning and would then advance to third base on the throw to the infield. An overthrow on the play, which put the ball out of play, would allow Kruger to come around to score to put District III ahead 3-1.

They never relinquished the lead.

Evans drove in Kormanik and Jarvis scored on an East fielding error in the bottom of the fifth inning to extend the District III lead to 5-1 and cement the third-place finish.

“I think we were down a little bit in our energy and the way that we normally play, but overall I think that we all came back with a fight,” said Wroten of the bounce-back win.

For some girls on manager Craig Kormanik’s squad, this marked the final game they would be eligible to play Little League ball.

“It was just an amazing opportunity,” said Jordyn DiFava, who wrapped up her Little League career on a high note. “Some girls only have the opportunity to come here once, but we had the pleasure of doing it two times and it was just an amazing team effort the whole entire week.

“Every time someone was up to bat, or in the field, we could count on anybody at any given time and everyone just played amazing. We stayed focused and played our hearts out – it just didn’t play out the way we wanted it to, but it’s okay.”

For Kruger, who hopes to make a return to the Georgetown/Cape squad in 2019, the third-place finish will act as motivation for next summer.

“Yes, I think this will be motivation, especially losing some of our starters, like Taylor and Jordyn,” she said. “The younger girls were a big part of our team and they filled in spots when we needed them to.”

Check out the full, day-by-day, tournament wrap-up below.

Pool play: District III 12, U.S. East 0 (Monday, July 30)

Taylor Wroten’s 13 strikeouts from the pitcher’s circle and the offense’s 18 hits led Georgetown/District III to a 12-0 shutout victory over the U.S. East squad from Worcester, Mass. to open pool play with a 1-0 record.

“This definitely sets the tone for the tournament,” Wroten said after the win. “This is exactly what we wanted to come out here and do the first game, just show everybody that we’re still the team to beat and that we’re not here to play around.”

Ryleigh Elliott (three), Kelsey Kormanik (three), Wroten (two), DiFava (two) and Kylie Kruger (two) each had multi-hit games for the host team. Eleven of the team’s 12 members finished the night with at least one hit.

Manager Craig Kormanik receives high-fives from his players during pre-game introductions Monday night (Sussex Post/Ben Heck).

In last year’s tournament, Kormanik was limited to strictly catching duties and had a limited number of at-bats due to a recent knee injury she had suffered prior to the start of the tourney.

This year was different for her, as she stepped into the batter’s box and went 3-for-4 with a run and an RBI with the bat in her hand.

“It felt great tonight and it really feels like I’m back,” Kormanik said of her three-hit night.

“It’s incredible to have her back in our lineup and to have her do what she did tonight,” said Craig Kormanik of Kelsey.

“Our team all-around is sound,” Elliott, the team’s lead-off hitter, added. “Everyone on the team can make a play and everyone can hit. I’d say we’re all pretty much equal.”

Georgetown put up three quick runs in the top half of the first inning off a pair of RBI singles from Wroten and Kormanik and a passed ball.

Wroten struck out the side in the bottom of the first inning and shut down the East bats early, striking out six batters in the first three innings.

Georgetown extended the lead to 6-0 in the fifth inning on back-to-back Wroten and Sierra Livingston RBI singles and an East error from the shortstop.

One run in the sixth inning and a five-run top of the seventh, sparked by a lead-off single from Kruger, put the game out of reach for the East.

Pool play: District III 2, U.S. Southwest 1 (Tuesday, July 31)

There’s no better way to end a slump than by drilling a walk-off RBI double to end an extra-inning marathon.

That’s exactly what Sierra Livingston did when she knocked in teammate Jordyn DiFava in the bottom of the 12th-inning to put District III past U.S. Southwest, 2-1, to cap Tuesday night’s Senior Softball World Series Day 2 action.

“It’s awesome because I have been in a bit of a slump and it’s great to get out of it for my team,” Livingston said. “We put our whole heart into this game and we love every minute of it.”

Sierra Livingston (21) receives a hug from teammate Taylor Wroten after Livingston ended the team’s 12-inning game with a game-winning RBI double Tuesday night (Sussex Post/Ben Heck).

Livingston was 0-for-5 at the plate prior to her game-winning double but made the play out of the batter’s box when her teammates needed it most.

“Our girls, once again, stepped up and rose to the occasion,” said District III manager Craig Kormanik. “There’s 12 girls on this team and I can rely on any one of them – whether they’re starting, coming off the bench. I can call on them any given time and have them perform and that’s just a great feeling as a coach.”

District III (2-0) followed up Monday’s 12-run, 18-hit performance with 11 hits in the team’s one-run victory.

Kylie Kruger and Siera Jones recorded three hits each, with Ryleigh Elliott (two), DiFava (one), Livingston (one) and Kelsey Kormanik (one) recorded the other five hits.

Taylor Wroten pitched 12 innings of one-run ball, allowing just seven hits and striking out six while facing 45 batters.

Both squads scored a first-inning run, with Haylie Mitchell scoring on an error in the top of the first inning for Southwest.

District III returned the favor with an RBI single from Kylie Kruger, scoring Ryleigh Elliott in the bottom of the first.

Pool play: District III 10, Latin America 2 (Wednesday, Aug. 1)

District III used an eight-run seventh inning rally to rout Latin America, 10-2, in Wednesday afternoon’s showdown to improve to 3-0 in bracket play.

The win, coming just 13 hours after finishing a 12-inning marathon victory the night before, improves the squad’s pool play record to 3-0 heading into the final bracket play game of the tournament.

District III’s lineup collected 11 hits and saw six different hitters drive in at least one run.

Hadlie Jarvis led the late-game offensive surge, going 2-for-3 at the plate and knocking in a game-high three runs.

Taylor Wroten throws a pitch during District III’s 10-2 Wednesday win Latin America (Sussex Post/Ben Heck).

Evans went 1-for-2 with a pair of runs driven in and Jones followed up Tuesday’s three-hit game by going 1-for-4 with a run scored Wednesday.

“I came in with a positive attitude because it was the first time I actually got to hit this year and I had a big spot to fill. I just did what I know I can do and drove the ball,” Jarvis said of her success at the plate.

Livingston followed up her game-winning double the night prior with a three-hit day against Latin America’s three pitchers – starter Yessenia Vazquez and relievers Karmary Gonzalez and Paolo Perez.

Wroten tossed a complete game six-hitter, retiring the first 10 batters of the game in order. She finished the game with five strikeouts and two earned runs on 83 pitches.

District III’s offense struck first as Livingston scored the game’s first run on a Jarvis sacrifice fly in the top half of the second inning.

Evans extended the lead to 2-0 in the top of the fourth, driving in Kelsey Kormanik on a single to centerfield.

After recording just three hits through the game’s first five innings, Latin America broke up Wroten’s shutout bid with a two-run home run off the bat of Coralys Santiago to knot the game 2-2 with two outs in the bottom of the sixth.

Allowing a game-tying home run was just the extra push District III’s offense needed heading into the game’s final inning.

Elliott led the seventh off by reaching base on a Latin America fielding error. DiFava would bunt her to second – she would end up on third base due to another fielding error.

Livingston’s bloop single to shallow left field would score Elliott to give District III the go-ahead run and spark the offensive outburst.

A bases-loaded walk, two-run Jarvis single, Evans sacrifice fly and an Elliott two-run double broke the game open 9-2.

DiFava’s RBI double would put the finishing touches on District III eight-run inning.

Pool play: District III 8, Asia-Pacific 4 (Thursday, Aug. 2)

District III came out inspired in Thursday afternoon’s pool play showdown against Asia-Pacific, plating five runs in the first inning on their way to an 8-4 victory.

With the win, District III wrapped up pool play with a 4-0 record to grab the top seed in Pool A heading into the elimination rounds.

“The girls were pumped up. They knew Asia-Pacific was going to be a highly-talented team with good pitching, so to make a long story short they were ready for it,” said manager Craig Kormanik of the team’s five-run first inning.

“It’s contagious. Once one girl does well it seems like everyone else follows, so it was a good inning – a real good inning.”

Catcher Kelsey Kormanik tags a runner out at home during District III’s 8-4 win over the eventual World Series champion Asia-Pacific squad Thursday (Sussex Post/Ben Heck).

Offensively, the District III bats produced 12 hits from nine different hitters, including two-hit games from Ryleigh Elliott, Jordyn DiFava and Sierra Livingston.

Wroten tossed her fourth consecutive complete game, striking out four batters and allowing four runs (three earned).

Elliott kick-started the five-run top of the first inning by reaching base on a hit-by-pitch. Livingston would bring her and DiFava in on a two-run single to open the scoring with a 2-0 lead.

Hadlie Jarvis followed with a two-run single of her own, scoring Livingston and Wroten to extend the lead to 4-0.

Macy Layfield drove in Kelsey Kormanik with an RBI single to end the first half inning with a 5-0 advantage.

Elliott and Kylie Kruger each scored on an Asia-Pacific error in the top of the second to put District III ahead 7-0.

Asia-Pacific, determined to keep the score close, put a run on the scoreboard in the bottom of the third off District III’s lone error of the game.

Three more runs in the bottom of the fourth inning brought Asia-Pacific to within three runs.

Dane Ashley Martinez brought in a run on an RBI double, Mae Langga scores on a wild pitch and Neelyn Pajotal scored on an RBI single. Pajotal’s run would be the final run scored for Asia-Pacific, as Wroten bounced back and shut out their bats over the final three innings.

She retired nine of the 11 batters faced over those final three frames.

With last year’s lone loss of the tournament coming against Asia-Pacific – also on the final day of pool play – District III was happy about this year’s result.

Quarterfinals: District III 2, Europe-Africa 0 (Friday, Aug. 3)

Wroten tossed a two-hit shutout with nine strikeouts and scored a pair of runs in the team’s 2-0 quarterfinals victory over Europe-Africa Friday.

“Everybody after pool play is here to win and they brought their best,” District III manager Craig Kormanik said. “Taylor was once again a workhorse out on the field, kept her composure and got it done.”

“I had nine strikeouts but tonight wasn’t really my best pitching outing. We just threw everything at them and my girls had my back like they always do,” said Wroten.

“It’s good to have my own back, but I know I can’t do it by myself. I got on base and my girls hit me around and they had my back in the field. I think it was just a team effort all-around.”

Hadlie Jarvis swings away during District III’s quarterfinals win Friday (Sussex Post/Ben Heck).

“I think she did phenomenal,” said second baseman Jordyn DiFava. “She worked her butt off and stayed focused even when she was down in the count a few times.

“I thought it was amazing how we had her back, defensively, making outs. Everyone picked each other up and we played a good game so I’m really happy.”

District III’s offense collected six hits, including a pair from DiFava, and one each from Wroten, Ryleigh Elliott, Kayla Evans and Macy Layfield.

“Our lineup, when we call on them, anybody can step up and get the job done. That’s what the team is all about,” said Kormanik.

District III broke the 0-0 tie on an RBI single to centerfield off the bat of Evans in the bottom of the second inning.

District III’s offense was held scoreless by Europe-Africa starting pitcher Esmee Toet in the third, fourth and fifth innings, recording just a pair of hits over that span.

It wasn’t until the bottom of the sixth inning that District III tacked on an insurance run as Layfield drew a bases-loaded walk to score Wroten and put her team ahead 2-0.

“I knew I’ve been in a really big hitting slump, so I knew I needed to step up and get it done,” said Layfield. “In my last at-bat, with the bases loaded, I knew that it was a close game and I needed runs to come in. Getting walked was better than popping out.”

Both of the team’s runs batted in came from the bottom of the lineup, with the eight-hitter Evans and nine-hitter Layfield providing them. They also combined for a third of the team’s base hits on the night.

Semifinals: U.S. Southwest 2, District III 1 (Saturday, Aug. 4)

Defeating the same team twice can be a difficult task. Repeating as world champions is an even more difficult task.

U.S. Southwest, from Waco, Texas, defeated District III, 2-1, in Saturday night’s semifinal round, putting an end to District III’s quest for a second straight title.

The Southwest victory avenged a 2-1 extra-inning loss to District III in Tuesday’s pool play match-up.

Ryleigh Elliott slides safely into home to score the lone run of District III’s 2-1 semifinals loss Saturday night (Sussex Post/Ben Heck).

“Our girls fought hard, they just couldn’t find the holes and their pitchers kept us off-balance enough. It was a great run and hat’s off to the Southwest team – they did a great job,” manager Craig Kormanik said. “To me, in my mind, that might have been the championship game.”

Wroten, making the start in the pitcher’s circle for the sixth consecutive day, finished the semifinal game with eight strikeouts and surrendered just five hits on the night.

Offensively, District III collected five hits, including a pair of doubles from Sierra Livingston, a double from Jordyn DiFava and singles from Kelsey Kormanik and Siera Jones.

District III struck first, scoring a run in the top half of the third inning off DiFava’s RBI double. Elliott slid safely into home to put the host team ahead 1-0.

Southwest bounced back with a pair of RBI singles from Kennedy Cox and Beronica DeLosRios in the bottom half of the third inning to hand Southwest the two-run lead.

It’s all the offense they would need as Southwest pitchers Kennedy Parker (3.0 innings) and Alex Earhart (4.0 innings in relief) combined to allow just one run on five hits to pick up the win.

Team stat leaders

District III out-scored opponents 40-10 and recorded a pair of shutouts over the week’s seven games.

Ryleigh Elliott finished the tournament by leading the team in hits (13), runs scored (nine) and at-bats (29). She also hit .448 over the seven-day span.

Siera Jones led the team in average, hitting .500 (6-for-12) with four singles and four runs scored.

Hadlie Jarvis and Sierra Livingston each drove in six runs, tied for the team-high. Elliott and Kayla Evans added five RBI each.

Livingston and Jordyn DiFava each hit a team-high three doubles.

Wroten scored seven runs, behind only Elliott’s nine. She also allowed only eight earned runs from the pitcher’s circle in seven games.

Sports Editor Ben Heck can be reached at bheck@newszap.com.

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