District III punches ticket to World Series semifinals with 3-2 win over Southeast

Right fielder Saige Bullock chases down the game-clinching catch, preserving the team’s slim 3-2 lead in the process. Delaware State News/Ben Heck

ROXANA — When the ball left the bat, all Saige Bullock was thinking was that she couldn’t let it get past her.

With a runner on base and a slim one-run lead in the top of the seventh inning, a misstep could prove costly.

The right fielder chased down the ball and squeezed it in her glove to record the final out and clinch Laurel/Millsboro/Nanticoke’s 3-2 win in the Senior League Softball World Series quarterfinals at Lower Sussex Little League Friday night.

“I was just thinking to not let it get over me, to just do everything I can to catch it,” Bullock explained. “It was very exciting.”

The win over the Southeast region representative solidifies a spot in today’s semifinals for Laurel/Millsboro/Nanticoke, the District III and host team of the annual 10-team tournament.

First pitch is set for 5:30 p.m. at Lower Sussex Little League.

Southeast (2-3), comprised of Little League players from Florence, South Carolina, will move to the consolation bracket with a 3 p.m. game today.

Aryanna Briddell slides safely into second base after driving in a pair of District III runners.

Jada Evans tossed a complete game five-hitter for District III — her second of the tournament. She struck out seven and walked two.

“My changeup was working well and, until the fourth inning, it was my curveball and then my screwball,” said Evans. “I feel good now, I could play another game if possible.”

Evans stranded eight Southeast baserunners and forced 1-2-3 innings in the first and the fourth.

District III (4-1) collected five hits, with leadoff hitter Couri Smith, Aryanna Briddell, Kaegen Brittingham, Makenna Messina and Tatum Otwell recording one each.

Briddell’s two-run double in the third inning, scoring Carlie Venables and Kate Evick, proved to be key for District III’s offense.

“My first at-bat was a little ugly because she was throwing it way inside, so I decided to move up on the plate,” said Briddell. “The first pitch she threw me was right there so I swung at it and I hit it far and hard and we scored two runs.”

Jada Evans takes a swing against Southeast pitcher Payton McLeod.

For Southeast (2-3), Larissa Siders’ two hits led the way offensively. Gracelyn Flowers, Payton McLeod and Mia Boykin added one each.

McLeod tossed a complete game for Southeast, striking out two and walking four.

The two teams went scoreless through the first two innings before Siders drilled a double to center, stole third base and then scored on a Flowers’ groundout to take the early 1-0 lead in the top of the third.

District III answered with a three-run rally in the bottom of the inning, breaking the game open with a 3-1 lead.

Otwell led off with a single, with Venables walking two at bats later and Evick reaching on an error to load the bases.

An Evans bases-loaded groundout scored Makenzie Whaley to knot the game, 1-1.

Briddell followed with her two-run double to put the go-ahead runs on the board.

Evans walked consecutive batters and hit another with a pitch to load the bases with two outs in the fifth inning, but she preserved the lead by forcing a flyout to center field.

In the top of the seventh, Siders singled on a bunt to third base and ended up on second base following an error.

A bloop single drops just in front of centerfielder Couri Smith.

Flowers singled her home to pull within a run, but consecutive flyouts clinched the win for Evans.

“To know that we’re one of the top four teams in the world is amazing, so we’re going to do everything we can to go all the way,” said Briddell.

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