For five innings Madge Layfield and Savannah Laird looked “unhittable” in a scoreless softball semifinal.
Then the third time through the lineup, the Golden Knights found success against the Appoquinimink “ace” as MaKenna Messina lofted a first-pitch fastball over the centerfield fence in the top of the 6th to break up Laird’s perfect game. Two outs later, Mya Jones and Takyla Davis smacked back-to-back doubles to give No. 3 seed Sussex Central a 2-0 advantage.
The Jaguars mounted a 1-out rally in their half of the 6th as Hailey Watlington ripped a double off the base of the fence in center and Liv Marinucci was intentionally walked, putting the tying runs on base.
As she did most of the game, when Layfield got into a “jam”, she quickly regrouped and retired the next two batters on a pop up and fly ball, sending the game into the 7th.
McKenna Boyle led off the 7th with a walk (the 1st issued by Laird) and was sacrificed to second by Catherine Hassler. The next batter was Messina. She worked a 2-2 count then belted a base hit up the middle, scoring Boyle with what would prove to be a very important “insurance” run.
Coach Brian Timpson’s Lady Jags would not go down without a fight. Trailing 3-0 to Layfield who had recorded 12 strikeouts and allowed just two hits to that point, Brianna Russo worked a walk, Layfield then struck out the next two batters.
Appo was down to its final out as leadoff batter Alexia Fitzgerald stepped up to the plate. She promptly deposited a 2-0 pitch over the right field fence that cut the deficit to 3-2.
Once again, Layfield reached down deep and struck out the final batter of the game (her 15th) to send the Golden Knights back to the championship for the 2nd straight year where they will face No. 1 Caravel in a rematch of last year’s classic 11 inning 1-0 Buccaneers win at Dover High.
Appo stranded 4 runners in the first four innings on a bunt single and 3 walks but could not get beyond second base. Layfield allowed just 3 hits, and walked 5 to go along with those 15-K’s. Messina went 2-for-3 with 2 runs-batted-in, as Jones and Davis each had a hit in 3 plate appearances.
Laird struck out the 1st five batters she faced, and carried a perfect game into the 6th. She ended up with 12 strikeouts, walked one and gave up 4 hits. The Jags three hits came from Fitzgerald, Watlington, and Russo. Liv Marinucci was walked all three at-bats by Layfield, including twice intentionally.
The Golden Knights will take an 18-3 record into the DIAA softball championship game scheduled for Sunday at 2:00 at the University of Delaware. Caravel dispatched 13-seed Laurel 13-3 in 6 innings by “run rule” to advance to the title game.
The Bucs will be seeking an unprecedented 12th state championship, three coming with coach Randy Johnson at the helm. The Golden Knights are after their 4th title, all under Coach John Wells.
The championship game will be streamed live on the NFHS Network – powered by 302 Sports.
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