The best of Collier and Lee County converged at Veterans Park in Naples to contend for the District 18 Little League and Senior League softball championships, May 20.
For the seniors, the Ft. Myers Beach Sunbirds took on the Naples Navy. Going into the bottom of the seventh, the Navy found themselves down by three runs, behind the Sunbirds, 5-2. A lead-off hit by Naples' Manuela Brutcher set-up a two-run homer by Erin Olsen to bring the Navy to within one, but that was all that the Navy had in the cards as the Sunbirds squeaked by, 5-4, for the title.
"They didn't quit," stated Naples coach Rocky Iamurri following the game. "A championship game should be decided by one run. The girls were behind but they fought back and brought themselves back into the game. This was a good ballgame." Iamurri was very pleased with the pitching performance of Naples' Jazz Swope and was impressed by the ace for the Sunbirds, Hailey Barraco.
"She just didn't give us anything to hit," Iamurri admitted. "She had really great movement on the ball." The Navy evened up with the Sunbird's early two-run lead in the top of the sixth when a hit by Olsen allowed Hilary Brown to score. Olsen then crossed home plate on a passed ball tying the game at two runs apiece.
Ft. Myers quickly responded in the bottom of the sixth scoring three runs on a double by Crystal Thornton and a bloop single by Shelby Mann.
Ft. Myers coach Pete Doragh called the response his team made when faced with the tied ballgame, a character test.
"Either you respond or you don't," Doragh said. "And they came through big. We were able to get those three runs and it was a good thing because we needed everyone of them to win. They played together and did a great job." Naples Senior League Navy players are Megan Berry, Hilary Brown, Erin Olsen, Jaclyn Traina, Symone Iamurri, Nicole Downine, Jazz Swope, Krystina Smuczynski, Megan Peterson and Manuela Brutcher.
For the Little League division, the Cape Coral Bruins edged out the Naples Dynamite in extra innings, 9-7.
The Dynamite sparked in the bottom of the fifth scoring three runs on a two-run triple by Alexia Corrente before she scored the go-ahead from third on a sacrifice fly by Stephanie Bazley.
The first lead of the game for the Dynamite was quickly extinguished when the Bruins responded with three in the top of the sixth taking the lead by two. Striking right back, Rachel Dulaney and Morgan Waters of Naples scored for the Dynamite in the bottom of the sixth, tying the game at seven and forcing extra innings.
The championship was decided when two Bruins crossed the plate in the top of the seventh and the Dynamite was held scoreless in the bottom half of the inning, despite having bases loaded with no outs.
Naples Dynamites include Rachel Dulaney, Kaitlin Conway, Alexia Corrente, Abbey Valego, Stephanie Bazley, Christina, Mezzapella, Morgan Waters, Erica Berube, Ashley Beckos and Alexia Utter.