Portland, Or. – After dropping their third and fourth games of pool play, the Wheelersburg LL softball team found their offensive stride once again Monday afternoon as they defeated Kirkland LL (Washington), 10-1.
This victory advanced Burg to the semifinals of the Little League Softball World Series Tuesday night.
Whether it be fatigue or anxiousness, Wheelersburg did not feel like the same team that they had played like so far through the post season in their two losses on Saturday and Sunday.
Saturday featured a game in which Burg attempted to claw their way back into before ultimately falling short to Lake Oswego (Oregon) by a final score of 3-2. Oregon’s three run first inning was all the offense they needed to defeat Burg, and it was also the most runs that Wheelersburg had allowed all post season up to that point.
Sunday’s game against Eastbank LL (Louisiana) was incredibly devastating to see. The team that had been so dominant all throughout post season play had their backs against the wall in the game that would determine what seed they would be in the single elimination tournament that would start the next day. Heading into the final half inning down to their final three outs of the game, Wheelersburg trailed Eastbank 10-1 before tacking on three more runs before game end, making the final score 10-4 in favor of the representatives from the Southwest region.
Although they had lost their final two games of pool play, which placed them in the third seed from their pool, all hope was not lost. Once tournament play began, all prior losses can be forgotten in the single elimination event. No prior games factor into the results of each tournament game, but the willingness to win and continue to play does make a difference. The girls from Wheelersburg were not ready to go home.
The offensive firepower they had been us toed all postseason returned on the biggest stage and in the most meaningful way possible on Monday afternoon. Burg was able to score seven runs in the first three innings of Monday afternoon’s contest against the team representing the West region, Kirkland LL. From that point on, Burg never looked back and once again showcased their confidence and domination on the diamond. “I think the idea of it being a tournament format now is very motivational to our girls” said Wheelersburg LL head coach Dusty Salyers, “As long as we are motivated, I feel like the momentum will keep rolling.”
It may sound like a broken record to make this statement, but once again Wheelersburg pitcher AndiJo Howard dominated the Kirkland batters on the mound. Howard went the distance pitching all six innings, striking out twelve batters, and only allowing one hit while throwing 113 pitches in those six innings. Howard also dominated in the batter’s box on Monday afternoon, going two for two with a walk in her three plate appearances. She was also able to drive in two of her team’s eight RBI for the game. “AndiJo was great today” said Salyers, “Her location and velocity were very good. We just have to keep taking it one pitch, one inning, and one game at a time.”
Howard wasn’t the only girl who stepped up her game at the plate. Haley Myers and Ashlee Spence both were able to drive in two runs on their one hit a piece. Sydney Skiver went two for three with one walk in her four plate appearances. She was also able to drive in one run that helped extend her team’s lead. The story has been the same all post season for Wheelersburg, and that is a group effort in all facets of the game carrying them to a decisive win, extending their season by at least one more game.
Wheelersburg will be looking for revenge as they will once again face Eastbank LL in their semifinal matchup Tuesday evening at 7 p.m. EST. This will be the second time Wheelersburg will face Eastbank, but it will be the first time that they will face Eastbank LL with AndiJo Howard on the mound. On Sunday, when these two teams squared off which ultimately resulted in a 10-4 victory for East Bank, secondary pitcher Ashlee Spence was on the mound for Burg. Salyers said he is confident in Howard’s abilities to face the Eastbank lineup which was able to generate a season high ten runs against Wheelersburg. “I like the fact that we’ve seen all of their pitchers, and they haven’t seen AndiJo yet” said Salyers, “Hopefully that will work in our favor.”
The winner of this game will advance to the championship game of the Little League Softball World Series on Wednesday night at 10 p.m. EST. For Salyers and his team, he is just trying to enjoy the experience and the feeling that they are one of the four best little league softball teams in the world. “This whole experience has been great” said Salyers, “Now that we’re in the final four the excitement is at a whole different level.”
Reach Jacob Smith at (740) 353-3101 ext. 1930, by email at [email protected], or on Twitter at @JacobSmithPDT