Eric Ackerman wasn't quite sure what to expect from his Beaufort County softball team Saturday night.
The other 11 clubs in the Dixie Ponytails World Series had to earn a trip to Bluffton and Oscar J. Frazier Park the hard way by winning tournaments in their respective states. Beaufort County, meanwhile, found a spot in the field waiting for it by virtue of serving as the host team.
None of that mattered when it took the field, however, as Beaufort County moved into the winner's bracket with a 9-7 win over Rockingham West (N.C.). The team's victory, coupled with Hanahan's 10-0 triumph over Old Hickory (Tenn.), sets up an all-Palmetto State showdown Sunday at 1 p.m.
"It's nice to get a 'W'," Ackerman said. "It's nice to stay in the winner's bracket. When you stay in the winner's bracket, you can save your pitchers (and) you don't play as many games."
Those pitchers were thought to be the strength of the Beaufort County team this week, but 11 walks forced the team to earn a victory with its offense. After spotting North Carolina a 2-0 lead in the first, Ackerman's club put up a five-spot in the bottom half of the frame, capped by two-run singles from pitcher Michaux Gee and Ashley Weber.
They pushed the lead to 7-3 two innings later when Margaret Schubert turned her leadoff walk into a run by way of a throwing error before Alexis Ortiz crossed home on a sacrifice fly.
North Carolina didn't go quietly, though, as the club used a four-run fourth inning to pull into a 7-7 tie thanks in part to three walks and a fielding error. But Beaufort County reclaimed the lead in the bottom half of the frame thanks to a pair of defensive miscues to take the lead for good.
"I knew it was going to be close," Ackerman said. "I felt kind of confident there in the first but they straightened me out right there in the third and fourth."
All that matters to Ackerman was his girls ended up on the winning side. The team's lack of work together leading into the weekend had been cause for concern, as Beaufort County was unable to find its way into an earlier tournament and was instead forced to scrimmage more experienced clubs.
"We wanted to try and get in a tournament before this and the schedules, it just didn't work out," he said. "We had a couple scrimmages against older teams and we hung with them a little bit. I think it helped our confidence."
DIXIE PONYTAILS WORLD SERIES
Where: Oscar J. Frazier Park, Bluffton
Admission: $7 adults, $5 children ages 6-12, children 5 and under free
Watch: All games can be seen live online at www.bcgov.net.