CLOVER — The Clover Vipers finished the season unbeaten in under-10 girls’ softball, defeating the Fort Mill Firecrackers 7-5 in Saturday’s tournament championship at Clover Community Park.
The Vipers, who finished the season with a perfect 12-0 slate, built a 5-3 lead after two innings.
Aggressive base-running and a gutsy mound performance by 8-year-old pitcher Shelby Carpenter proved to be a winning combination.
Head coach Britt Dickerson said the players bought into the team concept in the early stages of the season and withstood the challenges from opponents in every game.
“We encouraged them to play together as a team in every game we play; that’s the way we do it,” said Dickerson. “If they can’t develop the team attitude, we do not want them to play for our team.”
The Vipers have been responding all season with Carpenter on the mound. She toes the mound like a seasoned veteran, working the strike zone, fielding the ball flawlessly and covering home plate when the need arises.
“You have to have confidence every pitch you throw,” said Carpenter, who was swarmed by teammates during a post-game interview. “I feel confident when I’m on the mound.”
Carpenter said her older sister helps her a lot with her pitching motion.
“It felt great winning the championship game,” said Carpenter.
Clinging to a two-run lead in the bottom of the third inning, the Vipers added an insurance run when Bailey Neelands drew a walk and later scored on a wild pitch.
The Fort Mill team showed it came to play, pushing across two runs in the top of the fourth to slice the lead to a single run at 6-5.
The Vipers answered with a run in the bottom of the inning. Kaiden Quinn reached base on an infield single, eventually scoring on a wild pitch to put the Vipers up by two runs once again.
The game ended in dramatic fashion, with Carpenter catching the ball on the fly and chasing down a Fort Mill runner who had left the base for the tag.
Double play. Game over.