By Will Willems Sports Editor
---- — Lebanon — It didn’t come completely as smoothly as they wanted it too, but the Lebanon 12U Softball All-Stars got off to a strong start in the opening game of the state tournament in Lebanon.
The All-Stars jumped out to a 11-2 lead and head off Don Ayres Times Corners Little League (Fort Wayne) by an 11-9 score.
”I am happy, especially against a team like (Don Ayres),” Lebanon head coach Debbie Redman said. “They have played us well the last four years, and to get a big first win off of them makes me happy. We still have a lot of stuff to fix though.”
Lebanon jumped out to a 2-0 lead in the bottom of the first inning. Payton Ray led the inning off with a walk, and two batters later scored when Payge Redman tripled her home.
Redman later scored on a single by sister Payten to make it 2-0.
Don Ayres scored two runs without a hit in the top of the second, capitalizing on two Lebanon errors, but Lebanon immediately re-established control of the game.
Brooke Dodson was hit by a pitch with one out and advanced to second on a single by Ray. Katie McDuffie laid down a sacrifice bunt, but the throw to first was wild, allowing Dodson to score and advancing Ray and McDuffie to third and second base respectively.
Payge Redman singled home Ray to make the score 4-2. McDuffie scored on a wild pitch and Livi Ward hit an RBI-fielders’ choice to score Redman and make it 6-2.
Coach Redman said the girls knew they had to bounce back in the bottom of the second inning.
”It was important,” she said. “We had a couple of errors and we gave them those runs. Our girls know we have to be aggressive at the plate and hit the ball. You can’t expect walks. This isn’t normal Little League play; these girls are going to throw strikes and we have to be ready to hit the ball.”
Neither team scored in the third and after Don Ayres failed to do anything in the fourth inning, Lebanon extended the lead some more.
Sarah Tribby was hit by a pitch to lead off the inning and moved to second on a single by Ray. After McDuffie sacrificed the runners, Payge Redman (4-for-4, three runs scored, four RBIs) hit her second triple of the game to score both runners and make it 8-2.
After Ward reached on an error, Payten Redman reached on an error that allowed two runs to score. Redman later scored on wild pitch to make it 11-2.
Lebanon recorded eight hits and drew six walks in the game.
”It is a good start offensively,” coach Redman said. “We have kids that know what they are out here to do. If we need them to lay down a bunt, slap, or something like that — they will do it. They want to work hard and they do work hard and it shows.”
After being held to two runs and two hits in the first four innings, Don Ayres’ offense came to life in the top of the fifth. In the final two innings, they recorded seven runs on eight hits.
Lebanon never allowed the tying run to get to the plate however, and got the win.
Redman said the girls know what improvements have to be made from the final two innings.
“We have to be aggressive,” she said. “We have to charge the ball and we have to throw the ball. Our outfielders have to be able to come up and get the out. If it gets passed them, we have someone backing them up. But we have to go up and get the ball, charge the balls in the infield and throw the ball hard.”
Lebanon is back in action tonight against District 1 champion South Park Little League (Chesterton).
Game time is scheduled for 6 p.m. Of Lebanon’s four games in pool play, all are scheduled for 6 p.m.
Redman said that could be an advantage.
“I think it helps us because we can get into a routine,” Redman said. “We can have batting practice in the morning and then get some rest after that.”