Little League softball: Rowan knocked out of World Series

Published 10:27 pm Friday, August 11, 2023

By Mike London
GREENVILLE, N.C. — Braelyn Johnson bounced a single up the middle in the bottom of the eighth inning, and Pitt County beat Rowan Little League 6-5  in the 12U softball World Series.

Southeast Regional champ Pitt County, playing in its backyard, won a nationally televised bracket semifinal matchup with Rowan, the North Carolina champ and technically, the host team.

It was a memorable encounter. The rival programs fought into extra innings on Friday.

It was the first time in 19 years that two teams from the same state had clashed in a World Series. Two Oregon teams squared off in 2004.

“This was such a tough game for all of us,” said Steve Yang, the Salisbury dentist who managed the Rowan team. “Our girls battled and competed all day. Some things took place that we didn’t have any control over, but our girls couldn’t have done any more than they did on the field. I can’t be anything but proud of all of them. I have no disappointment at all with how we played.”

Remi Hagerty pitched all the way for Rowan. Pitt County’s walk-off win ended on her 135th pitch. She threw 80 strikes.

“After every half-inning, I’d ask her how she was, and she’d say she was fine,” Yang said. “She did not want to come out. She was determined to win it.”

Rowan Little League got down 2-0 in the first inning.

Makynzie Melchor had a run-scoring hit in the second inning to get Rowan within 2-1, but Pitt County pushed its lead back to 3-1 in the third inning.

Rowan turned things around in the top of the fourth, putting together a four-run inning. CJ Haines had the clutch double that tied the game at 3-all. Remi Hagerty got the go-ahead run home with a groundout. Melchor got her second big hit to make it 5-3.

Pitt County scored in the bottom of the inning to cut Rowan’s lead to 5-4.

Pitt County got the tying run home in the fifth on a sacrifice fly. That was a controversial run. Replays appeared to show the runner leaving third base early and Rowan appealed the play, but the run stood, and it was 5-all.

When the game went to extra innings, the international tiebreaker was employed and both teams had the benefit of starting innings with a runner already at second base. Neither team could score in the seventh, but Pitt County finally pushed across the decisive run in the eighth.

Rowan started the top of the eighth with a walk to put two on. Rowan couldn’t get a bunt down, but with one out, both baserunners moved up with steals.

“Second and third with one out, but we just couldn’t put it in play to get the run home,” Yang said. “Maybe we should have played it different, but hindsight is always 20/20.”

Pitt County had 10 hits and played an errorless game.

Rowan had eight hits against two Pitt County hurlers and was charged with two errors.

Melchor was 2-for-2 with three RBIs. LeNiyah Ratcliffe had a triple, stole two bases and scored twice. Cressley Patterson and Haines had doubles. Bristol Smith, Tenley Shell and Ansley Jenkins had one hit.

Rowan, which began its program in 2009 and made its World Series debut in Portland, Ore., in 2015 was making its sixth appearance in the World Series. Rowan won championships in 2015 and 2019 and had runner-up finishes in the World Series in 2016 and 2017.

Another runs ends, but Rowan will start working on the next one.

“We played in a game today that, by all accounts, was one of the best games anyone has seen,” Yang said. ” Our girls were exhausted by the end of it and gave everything they had. There wasn’t a dry eye in our dugout. None of the coaches (Yang, Donnell Poole, Jeff Bernhardt) had a daughter playing this year, but it turned out to be tremendous summer for us  with these girls and their families. Now it’s over. Now they’ll be headed home and getting ready for school on Monday.”

Pitt County won 4-3 in its semifinal game with Texas.
Pitt County lost 5-2 to New York in Sunday’s championship game on ABC.
Texas beat Connecticut for third place.


NOTE: Former East Rowan athlete Grace Faller is a special events intern with the City of Greenville this summer and had a role in the planning and staging the World Series.