Youth softball: Naples Rockets dominate on way to District 27 9-10s title

Behind a team chemistry built playing together for almost a year, the Naples Rockets 9- and 10-year-old all-stars cruised to the Little League District 27 title this past weekend.

The Rockets, who have played in 13 travel ball tournaments since September, won their two games in the three-team tournament by a combined score of 35-3. After winning the district championship for a second straight year, the Rockets advance to the section tournament in two weeks.

Unstoppable on offense and defense, the Rockets gave up just three hits in eight innings. They beat the Golden Gate Heat 21-3 on Saturday, then defeated the Naples Li'l Indians 14-0 to claim the title.

"These girls have been traveling together since (they were in) 8-and-under (tournaments)," Rockets coach Tim Rushing said. "They're seasoned veterans. We have a bunch of hardworking kids."

Against the Heat, Megan Mullendore went 3-for-3 from the plate while Bianca Balacios was 2-for-2. Julia Alessi, Julie Cappelli, Olivia Eckleman and Sara Leon each scored three runs.

Leon, Alessi and Cappelli combined to throw a two-hitter against Golden Gate. In the Rockets' shutout victory over the Li'l Indians on Sunday, Leon and Cappelli combined for a one-hitter.

Alessi went 3-for-3 with three runs against the Li'l Indians, while Lily Manning also went 3-for-3. Eckleman and Mullendore had two hits each.

The Rockets are young, Rushing said, with just two returning players from last year's district champion. Though many of the players are still 9 years old, the coach said their experience showed over the weekend.

District 27 will host the Section 6 tournament, at a date to be determined. Last summer the Rockets won the section championship for the first time in five years.

The Li'l Indians, who are from the Naples Girls Softball Little League like the Rockets, beat the Heat 18-7 in their first tournament game. Lydia Cartwright was 2-for-2 with two walks, while Macie MacDonald and Ashlee Lykins split pitching duties. Catcher Taryn Stohler threw out five runners in four innings.

"It's a tribute to the Rockets, not only offensively but defensively," Li'l Indians coach Tim Cartwright said. "They took care of business."

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