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By Nick Schrager
“No matter what happens, you’re still the best in your state.”
Those are the words the Marion County 11-12-year-old state softball champions heard when they arrived in Indianapolis, Ind., last week. In fact, every team that participated in the Little League Central Regional was reminded they were the best in their state by the Little League staff.
On July 24, the 11-12-year-old all-stars lost their final game in the regional. Their final record was 0-3 after they lost their their final game, 6-0.
“They kept their heads up about it,” Coach Mike Benningfield said.
According to him, the girls more or less expected the defeat in the final game. Like the previous games in the region, the other team’s players were a bit older and as such, were in better shape, Benningfield said.
Regardless of the loss, he said the girls who are 11 will most likely go on to play again next year and the 12-year-olds will continue to play at the middle school level.
Their opponents, who were from Iowa, were coming off a 6-1 loss to Ohio (a team Marion County already played).
Marion County did put up a fight in their final game against Iowa when they got three hits.
Jaci Benningfield singled in the bottom of first.
“She hit the ball the whole game,” Coach Benningfield said.
Cassidy Logsdon also singled in the first, while Alice Farmer hit a double in the bottom of the second.
Haley Mattingly pitched a fierce second inning, striking out all three batters in a short amount of time. Iowa returned the favor in the fourth by striking out all three Marion County batters.
Things went south in the top of the third when Iowa scored four more runs on two hits, one error and one wild pitch.
In the final three innings, both teams played well defensively. In the sixth inning, however, an Iowa batter doubled to drive in the final run of the game.
Iowa’s win advanced them to the semifinal game against Michigan, whose record at that point was 4-0. Michigan defeated Iowa in a close game that ended 4-3.
The win sent Michigan to the final against Ohio (Marion County’s first opponent in the central regional).
Ohio, who defeated Illinois, 17-2, in the other semifinal, beat Michigan, 9-5, in the championship game to advance to the 2013 Little League World Series.
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