In reaching the Babe Ruth Softball World Series, the Manassas Blaze 16-and-under team was able to avoid the tough Southeast Regional tournament. As state champion, the locals earned an automatic series berth because the tournament was held in Richmond.
So perhaps it was only fitting that the Blaze beat Southeast champion Altamonte Springs, Fla., three times in the tournament -- including in the championship -- to win the World Series title Friday night at Dorey Park.
Jamie Jansen (Osbourn) doubled in two runs in the bottom of the seventh and scored the game winner on a two-out single by Kristin Nickloy (Hylton) to lift the Blaze to a 5-4 victory and cap a 7-0 record in the 10-team, double-elimination tournament.
Had the Blaze (30-10) lost, the teams would have squared off again Friday night.
"That's what I tried to explain to the people down here," Jeff Jansen, Blaze manager, said. "The reason we don't [qualify for] more of these World Series is because the Southeast is always the strongest."
The game-winning hit capped a stellar tournament for Nickloy, who batted .500. Jessica Schwier (Forest Park) hit .389 and Jansen .375. That trio combined for 25 of the team's 51 hits.
Brittany Bingham (Hylton) picked up the win in five games and posted a 0.82 ERA. Brittany Bailey (Brentsville), who started four games in the circle, notched the other two victories, with a 0.67 ERA. They combined for 28 strikeouts and nine walks in 55 innings.
On defense, shortstop Dana Woodsmall (Osbourn) handled all 31 chances cleanly in the tournament, and Kat Solarczyk (Osbourn Park) was errorless behind the plate.
In the final, the Blaze scored runs in the first and third innings on a single and sacrifice fly by Caitlin Davis (Osbourn) but trailed 4-2 heading into the bottom of the seventh.
"The girls were tight when we first started out [Friday]," Jeff Jansen said. "They kept calming down and calming down and finally started responding. . . . I told the girls right there in the seventh inning, 'Let's get it done here and go home.' "
Pinch hitter Brittany Barlow (Osbourn) reached on an outfield error to start the inning. Woodsmall (Osbourn), running for Barlow, went to third on a pinch-hit double to center by Kaitlyn Barbour (Brentsville).
Jansen doubled to right center, scoring Woodsmall and pinch runner Cindy Moore (Osbourn). Bailey bunted Jansen to third, and one out later, Nickloy singled up the middle.