Smith’s go-ahead HR lifts District III to Senior World Series finals

District III players (from left) Aryanna Briddell, Jada Evans, Kate Evick and Kylee Hill celebrate the team’s 8-7 semifinal win over Central following the final out Saturday night. (Delaware State News/Ben Heck)

ROXANA – She was 1-for-9 in her previous nine at bats, but when Couri Smith stepped up to the plate in the top of the seventh she had only one thing in mind.

The leadoff hitter just wanted to get on base any way she could.

Instead, she drilled an inside pitch deep over the left field wall for the go-ahead solo home run.

It turned out to be the game-winner as the Laurel/Millsboro/Nanticoke all-stars defeated the Central region representative, 8-7, in Saturday night’s Senior League Softball World Series semifinals.

“It feels really good,” said Smith. “I knew I needed to get on base, but it turns out I got a home run instead, so I was like, ‘whatever works.’”

LMN, representing Delaware District III and acting as the host team of the 10-team tournament, will play in today’s championship game at Lower Sussex Little League.

Kate Evick (35) is greeted at home plate by her District III teammates following her big two-run homer Saturday night. Delaware State News/Ben Heck)

First pitch is set for 2 p.m. and the game will be televised on ESPN2.

“We never gave up,” said manager Mike Evick. “With our hitters, up and down the lineup we hit all day long, and we just came through big time. It just shows how we are. We had long balls to get back into the game when we needed to, and they did a great job as a team.”

The District III girls had to battle back from deficits on two separate occasions.

“We’re a fighting team,” said starting pitcher Jada Evans. “We don’t back down no matter what.”

District III (5-1) collected nine hits against the previously undefeated Central squad, which is made up of Little League players from Michigan District 9.

Shortstop Carlie Venables takes a swing against Central starting pitcher Alyssa Braam. Delaware State News/Ban Heck)

Starting catcher Kate Evick collected a pair of hits, including a two-run homer in the third inning. Evans also collected a pair of hits and two RBI.

Kylee Hill, Carlie Venables, Aryanna Briddell and Saige Bullock recorded one each for District III’s offense.

Central (5-1) collected 10 hits, led by a 4-for-4 performance by Peyton Perrin. Alyssa Braam collected a pair of hits, while Emma Spahr, Ashley Strick, Paige Stroster and Alison Schultz registered one each.

Kylee Hill pitched three innings of relief in Saturday’s win. Delaware State News/Ban Heck)

Evans and Hill combined in the pitcher’s circle for District III, with Evans starting the game and striking out four batters over four innings and Hill striking out one over her three innings of relief.

“I kind of just did what I normally do,” explained Evans. “Throw the ball hard, hit my spots and get them off balance with the changeup and I’m good.”

Evans drove in Evick with an RBI double to take the early 1-0 lead in the bottom of the first inning.

Central used a four-run second inning rally to jump ahead 4-1, collecting five hits and taking advantage of a pair of fielding errors in the inning.

Schultz drove in Strick and Braam on an RBI double to grab the 2-1 lead, while Perrin’s RBI single and Lauren Schwallier’s RBI groundout rounded out the second inning scoring.

The District III girls battled back with two runs in the third inning and the tying run in the fourth.

Second baseman Makenna Messina receives a throw from left fielder Megan Sterling. Delaware State News/Ben Heck)

Evick smashed her two-run homer – her second of the tournament – over the left field wall, scoring Venables, to bring the score to within a run.

It was an RBI double from Hill in the bottom of the fourth that knotted the game, 4-4.

Strick scored her second run of the game on a fifth inning wild pitch to put Central back ahead, 5-4, but District III plated a trio of runs in the bottom half of the inning to grab a two-run lead.

Briddell scored Evick on an RBI single to tie it back up, while Evans and Briddell scored runs to grab the team’s first lead of the game.

Central had an answer in the top of the sixth as Spahr drove in a run on a groundout and leadoff hitter Jessica Dobias scored on a Strick fielder’s choice to tie it back up, 7-7.

Following Smith’s go-ahead homer, Evans recorded the last three outs to solidify the victory after returning to the pitcher’s circle in relief of Hill.

“It feels amazing,” said Hill. “I hoped to be here coming into this tournament, and now being here I’m overwhelmed. I actually don’t know how to feel, I want to feel excited. It’s been a great experience.”

“It’s going to be great,” Evick said. “Last time we were here we got third. I don’t want to get third, I want to get first.”

Reach staff writer Ben Heck at bheck@newszap.com

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