Smyrna-Clayton grabs Senior League softball title

Smyrna-Clayton catcher Annaleyse Huester catches Milford’s Ciera Brittingham in a rundown Sunday. (Delaware State News/Ben Heck)

MIDDLETOWN — After falling just short of a district title for the last three years, Smyrna-Clayton Little League finally made it over the hump.

With a pair of consecutive wins over Milford on Sunday, the Smyrna-Clayton all-stars nabbed the District I Senior League softball title at M.O.T. Little League.

Coming out of the loser’s bracket of the double-elimination district tourney, Smyrna-Clayton had to beat Milford twice in order to clinch the title.

A 13-3 win in five innings forced a Game 2, which was played 30 minutes after the completion of the first game. S-C outlasted Milford, 11-9, in Game 2 to cement the title.

“We’ve been district runner-up the last three years,” said S-C manager Pat Long. “We didn’t want to be in an if-game situation, coming out of the loser’s bracket, but it makes it feel that much better. That was the toughest mountain we had to climb in this tournament, was today.”

Trailing 9-8 through six innings, Smyrna-Clayton plated three runs in the top of the seventh to take the lead for good.

Jen Payton scored the tying run, while Emma Lagarelli and Annaleyse Huester provided the insurance runs.

“We had already faced Milford earlier in the tournament, and it was a close game, much like this second game, so we knew we had to jump out early and in the first game we did just that and we were able to put a bunch of runs on the board,” explained Long.

Jen Payton pitched Smyrna-Clayton to consecutive wins Sunday for the District I title. (Delaware State News/Ben Heck)

The Smyrna-Clayton girls batted around and plated six runs in the top of the first inning and added one more run in the second.

A few innings later, a six-run fifth-inning clinched the Game 1 win as Annaleyse Huester drove in a pair of runs on an RBI double to left field to cut the game short.

Payton tossed a complete game in Game 1, striking out six batters and scattering just a pair of hits across her five innings of work.

She started Game 2, tossing five innings with relief pitching assistance from teammates Cheyenne Silves and Rachel Brown.

“I was kind of nervous, but I knew I had to just keep calm and throw it in there,” Payton said.

“The first game made me a little more confident for the second game, because we had already beaten them once. We knew we were capable of it.”

“I’ve had Jen on my team for the last three seasons — regular season and in all-stars — and she is just so reliable and handles the pressure so well that I knew I could — even in the last inning of the second game — I could go back to her,” said Long.

Lauren Dickerson pitched the entirety of both games for Milford Sunday. (Delaware State News/Ben Heck)

Smyrna-Clayton collected 10 hits in the first game and nine hits in the second, including a pair of inside-the-park home runs off the bat of catcher Huester and center fielder Tanaya Wilson.

“I’m happy, especially since this is my last year (of all-stars),” said Payton. “The inside-the-park homers were great. My teammates getting on the bags and stealing was awesome. They really helped me a lot.”

Lauren Dickerson pitched a pair of complete games for Milford, while the lineup produced 10 combined hits between the two games.

Dickerson (two), Cheyenne Frieze (two), McKenzie Conley (two), Mya Cherneski and Lorelai Humes combined for Milford’s eight hits in the Game 2 loss.

“It feels great,” said Huester, who was celebrating a birthday. “We usually lose pretty early in the season, so it feels really good to win the title.”

Reach staff writer Ben Heck at bheck@newszap.com

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