East Beaufort wins 16U Babe Ruth state title

Published 6:04 pm Wednesday, June 28, 2017

CHOCOWINITY — East Beaufort, representing District 6, rolled into Wednesday’s game in the state Babe Ruth softball tournament with relative ease. The reigning champion was given a bit of a wakeup call when District 5’s Western Carteret scored twice, but the ladies of Bath and Belhaven reclaimed the lead immediately and never looked back in an 8-2 win.

PHOTOS: East Beaufort 16U state softball championship

The victory marked East Beaufort’s second North Carolina state championship in a row. The girls will have a brief window to celebrate before setting their sights on the southeast regional championship tournament, which is less than two weeks out.

“I’m so proud of the girls. They worked hard and deserved what they got,” coach Eric Slade said. “They’ve done a great job. They’re great girls as far as being leaders in the community, and they’re great ball players. It makes me proud to be their coach.”

Western Carteret jumped on the home side when it led off with consecutive hits, including a triple to right field, to plate the game’s first run. The visitors scored again, but pitcher Rebekah Williams caught a batter looking to strand a potential third run in scoring position.

East Beaufort’s defense locked in from there. There were the occasional slip ups that didn’t amount to much for Western Carteret, and Williams collected six strikeouts as she and the defense behind her retired the opposition in order thrice.

“Any championship is supposed to be difficult. They’re not supposed to be easy,” Slade said of Western Carteret’s quick start. “I thought the girls stepped up. After getting down a couple of runs, stepping up and playing the rest of the innings flawlessly, basically, and coming back.”

East Beaufort collected back-to-back singles to open the bottom of the first — a base knock from Kathlene Slade and a bunt single by Savannah Slade. Both came across to tie the game when Kaylee Elks smacked a ball that came about five feet from clearing the fence in centerfield. It was the beginning of an offensive performance that would help earn Elks most outstanding player honors.

Cameron Rose came up with what stood as the game-winning hit when her triple down the left-field line scored Teagan Pilgreen.

After a quiet frame and a half, East Beaufort added to its lead in the bottom of the third. With two outs, Brooklyn Hudnell reached on an error and stole second to put herself in scoring position. Western Carteret’s centerfielder was playing noticeably deeper after Elks’ near home run, so her double to shallow center gave Hudnell the opening to make it 4-2.

Rylie Norman takes aim at a pitch she likes. Norman bats in the bottom third of the lineup. She helped give East Beaufort offensive contributions throughout the batting order.

It was the start of a four-inning run streak for East Beaufort. In the fourth, Rylie Norman batted in Rose with a hard-hit ball to second base. The girls added two more in the fifth thanks to defensive miscues. An error let Hudnell score and put Elks within range to come across on Pilgreen’s single up the middle.

Norman opened the sixth with a double to centerfield. She moved to third on a sacrifice bunt by Logan Jefferson before scoring on a passed ball. East Beaufort ended up leaving a pair of runners in scoring position, but set Western Carteret down, 1-2-3, in the top of the seventh to seal the championship win.