As 2014 Virginia State champions, the Richmond County Girls Senior All-Stars got to do something that many teams only dream of: represent their state in the Little League regionals. Last week, Richmond County’s pride and joy travelled to Fort Meyers, Florida and competed in the Little League Southeast Regional Tournament hoping to eventually win a berth in the Little League World Series held in Delaware. The team competed against teams from West Virginia, Tennessee, North Carolina, Georgia, and Florida. In the end, the team advanced from pool play into the semi-finals where they were defeated by eventual champions Florida District 9 6-3.
Members of the team were: Megan Baughan, Meredith Slaw, Hailee Green, Courtney Berhalter, Megan Elbourne, Lexi Hanks, Makayla Rapp, Alexi Taylor, Carly Taylor, Maeve Collins, Jenna Whelan, Mary Alice Bronner and Serena Darby. The team was coached by Mike Slaw, Lisa Whelan, and Steve Elbourne.
“The coaches are extremely proud of these girls,” stated coach Lisa Whelan. “What many people didn’t realize is that the majority of the team was made up of girls who were Junior age. All of the other teams we played were older than us. We not only competed, but we competed well.”
Game One vs. Tennessee
Richmond County won the first game against Tennessee 8-0 with a seven run outburst in the second inning and the shutout pitching of Jenna Whelan. After shaking off some first inning jitters, the team broke the game open in the top of second inning. Courtney Berhalter led off the second with a tremendous homerun over the left field fence. Megan Elbourne walked, Lexi Hanks singled, and Makayla Rapp walked to load the bases, and Maeve Collins singled down the third base line to drive in Elbourne and Carly Taylor (who had been inserted as a pinch runner). Jenna Whelan then walked, Megan Baughan singled, and Meredith Slaw drove in Whelan with another single. Hailee Green then doubled to drive in Baughan and with that the girls had built a devastating seven run lead. In the fifth inning, Jenna Whelan doubled and scored to make the score 8-0 in favor of Richmond County.
The eight run lead was all that pitcher Jenna Whelan would need. Whelan pitched the entire game for Richmond County allowing only three hits while striking out three Tennessee hitters. “We came out hitting and we played great defense behind Jenna,” exclaimed coach Mike Slaw. “Jenna did a great job. Pitching the whole game in this heat was impressive.”
Game two vs. Florida
Game two was against the state champions from Florida. In the top of the second inning Richmond County struck first with a single run. Megan Elbourne walked and scored on Makayla Rapp’s triple. In the bottom of the second, Florida loaded the bases against starting pitcher Meredith Slaw and Whelan was brought in two pitch with one out. Whelan retired the next two Florida hitters to get out of the jam and after two innings Richmond County led 1-0. “The girls didn’t panic, they held together and played tough,” stated Coach Steve Elbourne. “That inning could have taken us out of the game but we never quit.”
Florida went on to score three runs in the bottom of the third to take a 3-1 lead, and added another two runs in the bottom of the fourth. Florida scored again in the bottom of the fifth to take a 6-1 lead. But Richmond County did not give up. In the top of the sixth, the team scored two runs. Courtney Berhalter and Megan Elbourne each singled and scored to bring Richmond County to within three runs of Florida.
Florida added one more run in the bottom of the sixth and took a 7-3 lead into the seventh and final inning. In their last at-bat Richmond County continued to battle. Megan Baughan led the inning off with a triple and was brought home by Meredith Slaw. Hailee Green and Courtney Berhalter each reached base and scored on a single by Lexi Hanks to make the score 7-6 in favor of the Florida team, but the team came up just one run short when Florida retired the last Richmond County hitter. “We got hot at the end of the game and it was not quite enough,” stated coach Slaw. “Too bad we didn’t have one more inning. I’m proud that we didn’t quit when we were down 6-1. The girls showed some fight.”
Game three vs. West Virginia
In order to advance out of pool play, and into the semi-finals, Richmond County had to win game three against West Virginia. The team showed that it was up to the challenge, beating West Virginia 13-4. “The girls got together last night and decided that they did not come all the way to Florida to lose,” said coach Whelan. “They picked themselves up today and got back on track.”
Richmond County scored one run in the top of the first inning when Megan Baughan led off with a double and was driven in by Hailee Green. West Virginia answered with a run of its own, and at the end of the first inning the score was tied 1-1. The score remained tied at one after two innings, and in the top of the third inning Richmond County scored three runs to take a 4-1 lead. Baughan led the inning off with a double and scored on Meredith Slaw’s single. Hailee Green and Courtney Berhalter each reached base and scored when Makayla Rapp singled to right field. In the bottom of the third West Virginia closed the gap to within one run by scoring two runs. After three innings the score stood 4-3.
In the top of the fourth inning Richmond County scored one more run when Megan Baughan reached base and eventually scored to make the score 5-3. Pitcher Jenna Whelan closed the door on West Virginia in the bottom of the fourth by striking out two West Virginia hitters and not allowing any runs to score. “Jenna stopped them in the fourth and kept the momentum in our favor,” said coach Elbourne.
Richmond County would then break the game open in the top of the fifth with five runs. Lexi Hanks, Makayla Rapp, and Jenna Whelan all reached to load the bases. Megan Baughan drew a walk which scored Hanks, and then Meredith Slaw cleared the bases with a clutch two-out double. After Hailee Green drove in Slaw with a single, the score stood at 10-3 in favor of Richmond County.
Again, it was all that pitcher Jenna Whelan would need. West Virginia scored one more run in the bottom of the sixth to make the score 10-4, but never got back into the game. Whelan pitched the whole game while striking out nine West Virginia hitters. In the top of the seventh Richmond County added three insurance runs when Megan Baughan, Hailee Green, and Courtney Berhalter each reached base and scored. When the dust had settled, Richmond County had defeated West Virginia 13-4 and advanced out of pool play into the semi-finals to face the host team, District 9 from Florida.
Game Four: Southeastern Semi-Final vs. Florida District 9
Richmond County’s amazing run would come to an end against eventual champion Florida District 9. After two scoreless innings, District 9 scored four runs in the bottom of the third inning to take a 4-0 lead. Richmond County had runners on base in the fourth and fifth innings, but could not come up with the big hit that would get them in. Whelan held Florida scoreless in the fourth and the fifth, and after five innings the score remained 4-0. Florida would score two runs in the bottom of the sixth to take a 6-0 lead, and Richmond County was down to its last at-bat in the top of the seventh.
Once again, the team showed that it had tremendous heart and fight. Makayla Rapp and Jenna Whelan reached base and Megan Baughan doubled to left field to make the score 6-2. Meredith Slaw then followed Baughan with a another double to make the score 6-3, but it was all the runs that Richmond County would score. In the end, the final score was 6-3 in favor of Florida District 9.
Megan Baughan, Meredith Slaw, Hailee Green, and Makayla Rapp ended up as the top hitters for Richmond County. Baughan was 6 for 15 for a batting average of .400; Slaw was 9 for 17 for a batting average of .529; Green was 4 for 12 for a batting average of .333; Rapp was 4 for 12 for a batting average of .333 as well. In addition: Courtney Berhalter had two hits (including a homerun), Megan Elbourne had one hit, Lexi Hanks had two hits, Maeve Collins had two hits, and Jenna Whelan had two hits. Pitcher Jenna Whelan collected 18 strikeouts against opponent batters. “Everybody contributed,” said coach Slaw. Coach Elbourne added, “these girls represented not only Richmond County well, but the whole state of Virginia as well.”