Playing without their ace pitcher, Ava Smith, the Destin Marlins rallied together to pull off a 19-9 win over the Baker Gators in semifinals of the Okaloosa County 1A Middle School Softball tournament in Destin Monday afternoon.
Fifth grader Izzy Douglas stepped into the pitching circle for the Marlins and got the job done.
“It was really scary thinking about Ava being gone,” Douglas said after the game was over.
“You can ask MJ (the catcher) I was really nervous,” she said.
“I was more scared of hitting people and walking people than anything and making errors.”
But Douglas held her ground in the semifinal game.
She will also be called on again on Wednesday when the Marlins play for the championship at home at 4:30 p.m. against the winner of the Pryor vs. Lewis game slated Tuesday evening. Results were not available at press time. Smith is out due to a finger injury on her pitching hand.
In the semifinal game Wednesday, Destin jumped out to a 7-1 lead in the first two innings. In the second inning, Jessica Pierce and Ashlyn Priest hit back-to-back bunts. The next batter struck out, then MJ Toth put down a bunt for an RBI. Hannah Isham belted a triple to left field for two RBIs. The other big hit of the inning came off the bat of Douglas who ripped a double to left center for three RBIs.
In the top of the third, Baker put up three runs on four hits. Jena Fedorak, Isabella Ortega, Karley Bishop and Laney Mason all hit singles.
Destin answered with two runs on three hits. Regan Palmer and Toth hit back-to-back singles. Olivia Payne singled for an RBI and the other run scored on an error.
In the fourth, Baker added two more runs on walks and errors. In the top of the fifth, the Gators continued to chip away at the Marlins and evened the score with three runs. Lexi Joiner and Jayden Harvey each singled.
With the game deadlocked at 9-9, Destin went to work. In the bottom of the fifth, the Marlins put up five runs. Palmer and Payne each hit doubles, while Toth, Isham, Douglas and Mykean Pope hit singles.
In the sixth, Douglas sat the Gators down with a pair of strikeouts and a groundout.
In the bottom half, Destin stepped up and scored the five runs needed for a 10-run ruling on the game. Pierce doubled, while Toth and Isham each collected singles.
“We struggled on defense, made a lot of errors and had a couple of walks in there … and let them back in the game,” said Destin Coach Kati O’Brian.
But the Marlins didn’t give up.
“Our girls got scrappy and they pulled it out. We executed a lot of bunts and a lot of steals. We did what we had to, to come together and win it,” O’Brian said.
“We had to work for it.”