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Jr. Eagles finish fourth at World Series

A group of Eagle Point teenage girls experienced the highs and lows of championship play for the past six days at the 14-Under Babe Ruth Softball World Series in Jensen Beach, Florida.

The Jr. Eagles split a pair of games in the loser’s bracket on Wednesday and finished fourth overall at the 10-team tournament.

The Jr. Eagles defeated the Centennial Bombers 5-3 earlier Wednesday then finished their run at Halpatiokee Park with a 14-3 loss in five innings to JPRD West of Metairie, Louisiana.

“The girls were pretty upset,” said Jr. Eagles coach John Thompson. “These girls played with everything they had all the time”

The Jr. Eagles defeated JPRD West 3-2 on the opening day of the tournament, but the Louisiana squad found their hitting touch against Eagle Point starter Cleo Smith and reliever Caitlyn Warner in the third-place game.

JPRD West collected 14 hits against the two Eagle Point hurlers. JPRD West managed just three hits against the Eagle Point pitchers in the earlier loss.

“The second time their hitters caught up and were seeing the ball,” said Thompson.

After falling behind 1-0, the Jr. Eagles scored two runs in the bottom of the first to take the lead. Kaylena Hoag reached base on a one-out error and moved to third when Smith’s grounder was booted. Hoag scored on an RBI single by Warner, then courtesy runner Chloe Pariani came home to give the Jr. Eagles a 2-1 lead when third baseman Raegan White made her second error of the inning on Alexis Waiters’ grounder.

JPRD West took control with six runs in the second inning — five scoring after two were out.

A two-out, two-run double by Skyler Dubreuil was followed with back-to-back triples by Brooke Taylor and Alyssa Hartman. Thompson pulled starter Smith after the second triple and brought in Warner, who got the third out of the inning on a grounder back to the mound.

The closest Eagle Point got was 7-3 after the second inning, then JPRD West added four runs in the fourth and three in the fifth to end the game early.

Hoag had two hits and scored two runs in the elimination contest.

“It shows we have that much more to grow,” said Thompson about the final loss. “After the first couple of games we started catching up with the pitching and outside of two games we played excellent defense.”

The Jr. Eagles bounced back from its first loss of the tournament against the Bombers to stay alive.

Smith limited Centennial to one hit with five strikeouts and allowed just one earned run.

“Cleo Smith pitched a great game,” said Thompson. “And we capitalized on some errors with small ball.”

Left-fielder Hoag led the attack in the opener with two hits and two runs scored.

“(Hoag) has been working hard all week on her hitting,” said Thompson. “It’s hard to adjust to the pitching speed here. She finally timed up the pitching.”

The Jr. Eagles added to a 2-1 lead against the Bombers with three runs in the fourth.

Caitlyn Brotzman opened the frame with a bunt single and stole second. ZahRiah Silafau reached base on an error and Brotzman scored on a passed ball. Bailee Worrell singled home Silafau and Smith’s RBI double scored Cailey Rizzardo, who had reached on an error, for a 5-1 lead.

The Jr. Eagles had won nine straight — five consecutive in the World Series — before a 6-4 loss to the Longwood Impact of Longwood, Florida.

Thompson said the trip was pretty much all softball: “Outside of going to the shopping mall and going to the beach a couple of times, we didn’t have an opportunity to take them anywhere else.”

But the memories should serve this group of players well in the future.

“Overall the experience should motivate them and shows hard work pays off,” said Thompson. “That’s a key thing playing a team sport.”

Reach reporter Frank Silow at 541-776-4480 or fsilow@mailtribune.com