Little League softball: Phenix City all-stars open with loss

WARNER ROBINS, Ga. — A typical performance by North Carolina pitcher Kaitlyn Perry on Thursday afternoon led to an atypical performance by Phenix City’s hitters in the Little League Softball Southeastern Regional.

Perry, a powerful right-hander, struck out 15 and scattered two hits to lead North Carolina to a 9-2 victory in the opening round of pool play at Little League Southeast Park.

“She’s usually pretty dominant,” North Carolina manager Natasha Brown said of Perry, who won for the fifth time in six decisions in postseason. “She’ll typically have 11 to 13 strikeouts. Maybe she was a little more ready (Thursday).”

Perry struck out six straight batters at one point, getting every Phenix City hitter except Jose Kittrell at least once in the complete-game effort.

“We’ve faced pitchers like her before,” Phenix City manager Heath Corbett said. “But I don’t know what it was (Thursday). I’m in shock, really.”

Kittrell broke Perry’s string of six straight strikeouts with a one-out single in the third, but Perry proceeded to strike out the next four hitters she faced during the next two innings. Whitley Pope had the other single for Phenix City, when she beat out a groundball that bounced off the first base bag.

“I thought I’d be a little nervous to start, but I wasn’t so much,” said Perry, who walked only one and lost the shutout by allowing two unearned runs in the sixth.

“I pitched about like usual except for my changeup. I had trouble getting it down.”

Phenix City had trouble with just about everything Perry sent to the plate. Kittrell’s single was the only ball that reached the outfield.

Phenix City capitalized on Perry’s lone walk and two errors — one by Perry on a pick-off attempt of a runner at third base — for its runs.

“We didn’t catch up to her ever,” Corbett said.

“Maybe we’ll hit better next time.”

North Carolina collected seven hits and was helped by a trio of Alabama errors. All of North Carolina’s hits came from the first four hitters in the order.

Allison Mitchell, Caitlin Shepherd and Tristan Johnson each had two hits, while Perry, who hit clean-up added the other. Mitchell led off North Carolina’s two-run first inning with a triple. Shepherd had a two-run triple, and Mitchell, Johnson and Perry run-scoring singles in a five-run fourth that broke the game open.

“We have some good hitters,” Perry said. “If I can do my job, I know we’ll get some runs.”

The teams are back in action today with Phenix City facing host Warner Robins in the 10 a.m. opener and North Carolina meeting South Carolina in the nightcap.

“I’m aggravated all the way around,” Corbett said. “We can play better ball than that.”