By PATRICK CASEY
The DeFuniak Springs Junior League baseball team rallied from a 4-0 deficit by scoring 10 runs over the final three innings of play to capture the district championship with a 10-5 victory over Shalimar on a rain-slick field in Walnut Hill last week.
The team, which is composed of 13-14 year old players, went a perfect 3-0 in the event as they beat Shalimar twice and clobbered Niceville-Valparaiso to capture the title and advance to the Junior League state tournament in Bonita Springs on July 31.
DeFuniak opened the tournament with a 4-2 win over Shalimar, then pounded Niceville-Valparaiso 11-1 to put the squad in the championship round. Shalimar got to the championship round by ousting Niceville-Valparaiso 13-3 in an elimination game.
The field the game was played on had to receive an hour of maintenance work after a 45-minute downpour soaked the field to near unplayable status. DeFuniak got off to a slow start as they allowed a pair of runs in both of the first two innings to fall behind 4-0 as Shalimar laced some solid hits around some spotty defensive play by DeFuniak to build a lead.
Chris Kelly relieved Christopher Murphy after two innings as DeFuniak settled down in the field, failing to score for the first four innings of the game.
Kenneth Lorenz, who had some vicious swings at the plate, drove in DeFuniak’s first run of the night in the fifth inning with a triple to cut the deficit to 4-1. Chris Kelly followed with a squibber off the end of the bat that could not be fielded by the Shalimar shortstop as it leaked into leftfield, allowing two runs to score and an aggressive Kelly to reach third base as Shalimar failed to nab the second DeFuniak baserunner at the plate. DeFuniak wound up stranding a pair of runners as Shalimar starter Hunter Vaughn got the final out of the inning to hold a 4-3 lead.
Shalimar plated a run in the fifth inning to take a 5-3 lead to the sixth, but Vaughn had to be relieved after reaching the 95-pitch limit that is imposed on Junior League pitchers in Little League baseball. Having already had to fight through the elimination bracket while playing one more game than DeFuniak, Shalimar just simply began to run out of pitching. DeFuniak scored three runs in the sixth inning to grab a 6-5 lead as Shalimar’s pitching unraveled with an error and a bases loaded walk doing the damage.
DeFuniak turned the game over to Brennan Orcutt and he mowed down the Shalimar lineup on ten pitches to end the sixth inning.
DeFuniak put the game away with four more runs in the top of the seventh inning as Shalimar could not find a pitcher to finish the game who could throw strikes. Walks helped DeFuniak plate most of the runs with catcher Zach Burgess supplying a deep shot down the leftfield line that was one of the more impressive hits during the contest.
Orcutt hit the first batter to start the seventh inning but got a fielder’s choice and a pair of strikeouts to seal the win and send DeFuniak to the state tournament.
Results and schedules for area Little League tournaments can be found at www.eteamz.com/fld1 and with links that can be obtained via that site.
At Walnut Hill
NW Escambia 3
NW Escambia 1