“I’m pleased with their performance because this is the first time going in the regionals,” Bartow County Recreation program director Jeff Shinall said. “They fought hard yesterday. They could have got down and they did a great job. They didn’t hit Saturday at all and they put 24 hits out there [Sunday].”
The Bartow All-Stars played five games, two Saturday, two Sunday and one Monday. After scoring just four runs in the team’s two games Saturday, the Bartow offense erupted for 19 runs Sunday.
“The bats woke up big time [Sunday],” Shinall said.
Bartow had to win its state tournament earlier in the month to qualify for the Southeast Region Tournament of Champions and did so along with seven other teams from Georgia, North Carolina, South Carolina, Virginia, West Virginia, Tennessee, Florida and Alabama.
Bartow County 2,
Citrus Park 0
Bartow’s standout pitcher Tori O’Neal threw a no-hitter and allowed just one walk in the first inning to pick up the win against Florida’s state champion.
O’Neal threw all six innings and struck out 13 batters. She also drove in both runs in the third inning with a two-out double into the left-center field gap.
“This was a classic fast-pitch pitcher’s duel,” Shinall said.
Bartow had all two of the hits in the game. In addition to O’Neal’s hit, Emmalee Cigainero recorded a single and came around to score in the third inning.
Saint Albans 10,
Bartow County 4
Bartow lost to Saint Albans from Virginia Saturday. O’Neal got the game off in the circle and Saint Albans took advantage on offense, sending Bartow to the loser’s bracket.
Bartow got four runs on six hits. The team scored two runs in the second inning when Chloe Souders singled to lead off the inning. After a strikeout and two straight walks, Souder scored on a groundout by Brooke Evans. Bartow scored a second run on an error.
The team then scored a run in the fourth inning when Anna Kate McElhaney led off with a single, advanced on two walks and scored on a wild pitch.
In the fifth inning, Bartow scored its fourth run on a wild pitch.
Bartow County 8, Clarksville 2
O’Neal had another stellar outing Sunday. She came on in relief and got all 18 outs for Bartow in another hitless performance. Clarksville scored two runs before O’Neal came in to pitch and O’Neal struck out 11 in the game. She allowed two walks, but none of the runners advanced past second base.
Bartow spotted Clarksville, the host team from Tennessee, two runs, but Bartow came right back in the bottom of the first inning and scored two of its own. Cigainero led off with a single, Rachel Lee then walked and O’Neal singled. Haley Wells then stepped up to the plate and drove in a run, followed by Souders’ RBI single to tie the game.
Bartow was back at it in the second inning when Morgan Cooper led off with a single. Evans then laid down a bunt single. The ball was thrown into right field, scoring Cooper as Evans advanced to third base.
“It was a perfect bunt,” Shinall said of Evans’ single. “She beat the throw. She would have been on base anyway, but you couldn’t have rolled it any better. It was perfect.”
Evans then scored during the next at bat on a passed ball and Bartow took a 4-2 lead.
Bartow then scored another run in the third inning. Souders led off with a single, Cooper added another and Evans had the third hit of the inning to score Bartow’s fifth run.
Bartow then got two in the fourth inning when O’Neal singled. Haley Wells singled and Souders walked to load the bases. Sadye Johnson then drove in a run on a fielder’s choice and Souders scored on a wild pitch.
The team would tack on another in the fifth when Evans walked, advanced on an error, a fielder’s choice and scored on a passed ball.
Bartow County 11,
Citrus Park 1
O’Neal had another stellar outing in the circle to keep Bartow alive in an elimination game and advance to the finals of the loser’s bracket.
O’Neal came in on relief and allowed a run that was not credited to her. She walked four in the game, but once again got all 18 outs and allowed just one hit in the game while striking out 11.
The hit came in the bottom of the sixth.
“They hit a little bloop, dying-quail single in the bottom of the sixth,” Shinall said. “That was it.”
Bartow gave O’Neal plenty of run support as the team recorded 11 hits in the game and eight of the nine players had at least one hit.
Bartow scored three runs in the second in the second inning, five in the third, one in the fourth and two in the sixth. Johnson drove in three runs and O’Neal had an RBI on a long double that one-hopped the wall. McElhaney also almost hit a home run in the second inning. Wells added an RBI, Souders had an RBI and McElhaney had an RBI. O’Neal finished the game with two hits, while Souders went 3-for-4. Johnson and McElhaney also each had two hits.
The win was Bartow County’s last of the tournament as the team lost 7-1 to Rowan out of North Carolina to finish third in the 9/10 Little League Southeast Tournament of Champions.