Lower Sussex clinches Major Softball District III title with 2-1 win

ROXANA – With the potential game-tying run on third base and no outs in the bottom of the sixth inning, Lower Sussex starting pitcher Camryn Ehlers knew she had to rely on her defense to help her close things out.

Ehlers would go on to strike out consecutive batters and force a game-ending groundout to second base to cap the team’s 2-1 Major Softball District III championship win over Nanticoke/Laurel Saturday night at Lower Sussex Little League.

With the victory, Lower Sussex finishes the six-day district tournament with a perfect 4-0 record and earns a spot in the 2018 Delaware State Major Softball tournament beginning next Wednesday, July 11 at Lower Sussex Little League.

“I knew they would be there for me,” Ehlers said of the defense behind her. “I knew, with no outs, my defense was ready for it. I’m glad we could hold them and get the outs we needed.”

Lower Sussex celebrates moments after clinching the District III title Saturday night (Sussex Post/Ben Heck).

“It was definitely a little nerve-wracking, but our defense has played great throughout this whole tournament and I’m just super proud of them,” said Lower Sussex manager Sarah Hoban. “This was a total team effort, defensively, all the way through. They did a good job.”

Lower Sussex scored its pair of runs in the top of the first inning, with lead-off hitter Destiny Mitchell scoring on a passed ball and Kinsley Hall scoring on an RBI single to left field from teammate Laniya Lewis.

Ehlers kept Nanticoke/Laurel scoreless through the first 2.2 innings before third baseman Ashlyn Ullman was able to drive in right fielder Alyssa Brittingham on an RBI single to centerfield.

It would be the only run she would allow in Saturday’s game and one of only five combined runs she allowed in all four tournament games.

“She’s just been phenomenal throughout this whole tournament,” Hoban said of the performance. “She’s been a beast on the mound. Cam is a leader out there and the girls have a lot of faith in her, as do the coaches. We’ve got a great defense backing her up, too.”

“I’ve just been focused on throwing strikes and making it hard for them to hit, while also relying on my defense and letting them work too,” Ehlers said of her approach. “My teammates have backed me up through every game and I couldn’t have done it without them.”

Camryn Ehlers throws a pitch during Saturday night’s contest (Sussex Post/Ben Heck).

Offensively, Lower Sussex recorded four hits, including a single and double from Lewis, a single from Jaya Shaub and a triple from Mitchell.

Nanticoke/Laurel pitcher Kylee Hill tossed a complete game Saturday night, allowing just the two first-inning runs in the pitchers’ duel loss. She struck out the side in the top of the fourth-inning and finished the game with six strikeouts.

“Kylee is a great pitcher, and it was a great game,” Hoban said of the NL starting pitcher. “She pitched really well this game and the last game.”

Lower Sussex out-scored opponents 31-5 in its four district tournament games, including a 14-0 shutout win over Georgetown July 1 and a 12-2, five-inning win over Millsboro July 2. They also earned a hard-fought 3-2 win over this same Nanticoke/Laurel squad Thursday, July 5 to set them up in the title game.

Coach Hoban wants to keep her team’s approach the same as they head into next week’s state tournament.

“We just want to keep it simple like we have been – catch the ball, throw the ball, hit the ball and run – and just keep doing the little things and score some runs,” she said with a smile.

The state tournament is set to begin Wednesday, July 11, but Lower Sussex will play its first game Thursday, July 12 at Lower Sussex Little League. First pitch is slated for 7 p.m.

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

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