By Will Willems Sports Editor
---- — Lebanon — The Lebanon 12U Softball All-Stars knew claiming the state championship was going to be tough Tuesday night after needing to use their ace in the semifinals in the afternoon.
And despite their best efforts, the Tigers found out how tough it would be, losing to Riverfield 8-0 in the state championship game.
The loss was the first for the All-Stars throughout the run through the state tournament. Lebanon won both games of the District 3 Tournament before winning their first five contests at the state tournament.
“It has been awesome,” Lebanon head coach Debbie Redman said of the summer. “For these girls to step up, being this young, and to finish second — I am proud of them. Regardless of what happened tonight on the field, these girls did awesome and should be proud of what they did.”
Redman said there wasn’t anything that different with Riverfield compared to some of the other teams Lebanon played during its run. The Tigers just didn’t play their game.
“We just didn’t hit the ball,” Redman said. “Plain and simple. We weren’t able to hit the ball and use of pitching time killed us. We knew it would be tough.”
Lebanon’s ace Payten Redman pitched a complete game in the semifinal earlier in the afternoon and was limited to three innings in the championship game (pitchers can only throw nine innings a day).
The Tigers started Keenon Gibbons in the championship game. Riverfield — who placed fourth at the Little League Softball World Series last year — was able to jump on her early.
A walk, a single and a double steal put runners on second and third with one out for Riverfield in the top of the first. The next batter hit a chopper to short, but the throw home was late to allow a run to score. A single and a wild pitch allowed Riverfield to score two more in the inning and lead 3-0 after a half inning.
That would end up being enough for the visitors.
Lebanon managed six singles in the game — two by Kaitlyn Blevins and one each by Payton Ray, Katie McDuffie, Payge Redman and Payten Redman — but could only get one runner past second base.
“We just didn’t go up there being aggressive at the plate,” coach Redman said. “Their pitcher was a good pitcher and she was throwing strikes, but she wasn’t throwing any heat that we hadn’t seen before. We just got up there and didn’t.”
Needing to keep the score where it was at, Lebanon brought Payten Redman in to pitch and she struck out five of the six batters she faced in the second and third innings to keep the score 3-0. Lebanon had a chance to cut into the lead in the bottom of the third, when Ray and McDuffie hit back-to-back one-out singles, but a fielders choice and a strikeout ended the threat.
Neither team did much in the fourth, but Riverfield pulled away in the fourth. Lebanon allowed two walks, three hits and a hit batter and Riverfield scored four runs to go up 7-0.
The visitors added another insurance run in the sixth to go up 8-0.
Lebanon tried to put up one final rally in the bottom of the sixth. Payge Redman reached on an error and advanced to second on a sacrifice by Brooke Dodson.
Payten Redman then laced a single to right field, by Payge was thrown out at home for the second out. Payten then tried to reach third but the Riverfield catcher made a heads-up play and threw her out to end the game.
Lebanon will return a decent number players next year, but it will be the last Little League state tournament for a number of Lebanon players — including the two Redmans, Blevins and McDuffie.
That quartet made four trips to state, placing second twice and winning the state title in 2011.
Redman said that the key for Lebanon if they want to have continued success at state is to have more than one pitcher.
“We have to develop pitchers,” she said. “Pitching is the main thing. That killed us. I have to give it to Keenon Gibbons, for coming into this game and throwing her best for three innings. But if you don’t have a couple of good, strong pitchers, it is hard to win state.”
Tigers top Don Ayres1-0 in semis
The Lebanon 12U Softball All-Stars advanced to the state championship game Tuesday night.
The Tigers won a close 1-0 decision of Don Ayres Times Corner (Fort Wayne) in the semifinals Tuesday afternoon.
“It feels great,” Lebanon head coach Debbie Redman said. “These girls have earned it. It is just a great feeling.”
Unlike when the two teams met in pool play, when Lebanon won 12-9, this game was a pitchers’ duel from the beginning.
Don Ayres managed just two hits in the game, both singles that didn’t get out of the infield.
Lebanon managed five hits, with Payton Ray and Payten Redman each hitting two. The other came on a single by Kaitlyn Blevins.
Lebanon used their speed to score the game’s lone run.
Back-to-back two-out singles by Redman and Blevins put runners on second and third in the fourth inning.
Taylor Wagoner showed bunt, and with the corners charging in, Redman stole third. The Don Ayres catcher threw to third but no one was on the bag and the throw went into left field, allowing Redman to score.
“Our hustle was the difference,” coach Redman said. “Like I have been saying all tournament, thank goodness for fast girls. That won us the ballgame today.”