The Wheelersburg Little League softball team locked their place in the tournament stage of the Little League Softball World Series in Portland, Oregon after their two opening victories in pool play over the representatives from Latin America 9-0 Wednesday evening and Bacolod City West LL of the Philippines 3-2 Friday afternoon.
The top four teams from pools A and B based on record in the round robin pool play format, with the main tiebreakers being head to head record and run differential, were seeded into their tournament seeds late Sunday evening. Because of their two victories in their opening two games, Burg was able to secure their spot in the tournament stage fairly quickly. Although, the road to the tournament stage was not an easy one.
Bacolod City LL led for the final few innings in their matchup Friday afternoon with Wheelersburg, until an infield hit by pinch hitter Emma Smith drove in the game tying run in the bottom of the sixth inning with two outs. Once extra innings started, ace pitcher AndiJo Howard entered the game and proceeded to strike out eight batters from Bacolod City LL in her three innings pitched. Maddi Kotcamp drove in the game winning RBI in the bottom of the ninth inning to push Burg’s record in pool play to 2-0.
Saturday afternoon’s game against hosts of the tournament, Lake Oswego LL from Portland, provided the Burg girls a feeling they had not felt all post season: a loss. Lake Oswego opened the game by tacking on their only three runs of the game early on in the top half of the first inning. For the rest of the contest, Wheelersburg would attempt to claw their way back into the lead just as they had the game prior against Bacolod City.
Ultimately, the Wheelersburg girls fell short due in part to a questionable call at second base that ruled leadoff hitter Rileigh Lang out. Even after the lead umpire went to the monitor to try and determine the factuality of the call, he determined there was not conclusive evidence to overturn the call in favor of Lang. That out would spark an inspired defensive effort by Lake Oswego that they would use to close out the game the next inning and get the first post season victory over Burg this postseason, 3-2.
Head coach of the Wheelersburg LL softball team, Dusty Salyers, said he has not been surprised by the level of play his team has faced. “The level of competition has been really high, but not really unexpected” said Salyers, “When you have the best ten teams in the world competing, you can’t expect much less.”
Although the last two games for Burg have been uncharacteristically close, he still believes his girls have every opportunity moving forward to make a run at the championship. “We’ve fallen behind in the last two games” said Salyers, “What I’ve talked about with the girls is making sure we’re ready to play from the first pitch to the last pitch. With this competition, you can’t afford to fall behind early and expect to rally every game.”
The tournament play for Wheelersburg will begin Monday afternoon at either 1 or 4 p.m. EST and will be shown on ESPN2. The tournament stage will bring together the top four teams from each pool to play in a single elimination tournament.
Anyone interested in watching any of the Wheelersburg LL games this week can go to ESPN Plus, which is ESPN’s online streaming service, and watch any of the games in Portland if you subscribe to the service.
Reach Jacob Smith at (740) 353-3101 ext. 1930, by email at [email protected], or on Twitter at @JacobSmithPDT