Eric Ackerman tries his best to stick to the same script each time out with his Beaufort County softball team.
With only two of his pitchers having true experience inside the circle, the coach has opted to throw one of them -- Michaux Gee -- over the first two frames before bringing the other -- Alexis Ortiz -- on to close over the final two innings.
"I try to hold Alexis until the end because I feel like if we have a lead, I can put her in for five and six," Ackerman said. "If they hit it off of her they deserve it. She's our best pitcher, she's our No. 1. If they hit it off of her they did their job."
The only problem was Ackerman's script didn't go according to plan Sunday night in the Dixie Softball Ponytails World Series at Oscar J. Frazier Park. With Beaufort County clinging to a 4-3 lead over Amelia (Va.) and its middle relievers struggling to throw strikes, the coach opted to go with his closer to stop the bleeding, leaving the back end of the game open for a possible comeback.
But Ackerman may have a new script in mind for the next few days. While Ortiz was her usual reliable self, Journeigh Doray threw two shutdown innings to close out a 6-3 win over Virginia, keeping Beaufort County alive for another day.
"Journeigh doesn't have a whole lot of experience," Ackerman said, smiling. "But she pitched those last two innings and come through great. I just asked her to put it across the plate and that's what she did."
It certainly wasn't easy, though. Virginia brought the tying run to the plate in the bottom of the sixth inning with a pair of runners in scoring position, but Julianna Greer made a shoestring catch in center field before Doray induced a game-ending groundout to send Beaufort County to the elimination game victory.
The team lost earlier in the day, 9-3, to Hanahan (S.C.) in the winners' bracket.
"JuJu (Greer) likes to keep it interesting," Ackerman said. "She's quick, so she can make up for it. She waits a little bit and then comes in hard."
It was Doray who provided the early offense, as her RBI triple in the first inning gave Beaufort County a 1-0 lead, which quickly doubled on Gee's run-scoring infield single.
Ortiz soon upped the advantage to 4-1 in the fourth on a two-run double to left-center field. Those runs came in handy in the bottom half of the frame, when three Beaufort County relievers issued five walks that pulled Virginia within a run.
"I tried to squeeze two innings out in the middle and we just couldn't get those two," Ackerman said.
No matter. Ortiz shut down the rally, and after Beaufort County tacked on a pair of insurance runs, Doray sealed the win and a date with West Monroe National (La.) on Monday at 5:30 p.m. The winner will face the loser of Hanahan (S.C.) and Wewahitchka (Fla.) on Tuesday.
"I think they're doing great," Ackerman said of his club. "The (Virginia) girls came back and made it close and we came right back, and put two or three on the board. That shows character."