River Edge LL turned back Texas East, 2-0, in the semifinals, then tripped up two-time defending World Series champion Texas West, 2-1, in the final for the unprecedented Southwest Regional sweep at Waco, Tex.
By Arnie Leshin
It wasn’t easy, but Louisiana River Edge Little League softball has finally landed its state in the World Series.
The league began in 1974. Tampa, Florida won the initial championship, and Texas won the title a record dozen times, with Florida next with seven.
Fourteen other states have made the field through the years, but until Sunday’s stunning 2-1 win over the Texas West representative from Greater Helotes, Louisiana had never made the trip to Portland, Ore., for the World Series.
But it will be there this time thanks to the bounce-back, pitching, defense, and timely hitting. In the semifinals on Saturday, River Edge shut down Texas East (Columbus), 2-0, by scoring twice in the top of the sixth inning and then relying on right-hander Lauren Mounce to keep the East off the scoreboard in the last of the final frame.
Now it was one more step for the state, and again it worked its magic
In the victory similar to the one in the semis. It was 1-1 when River Edge batted in the last of the sixth, realizing a win here would bring its first SW Regional title and make its first appearance in the World Series for the 11 to 13 year olds.
This time, Louisiana had sent right-hander Kayla Gianina to the circle and she also responded by allowing four hits, not walking a batter, and striking out nine to offset the stellar effort by the opposition righty Tivili Martinez, who also went the distance, yielding six hits and whiffing seven.
It was a tense game inning by inning. But batting last, River Edge had the edge, knowing a run here wins it. So Olivia Ianetta began by singling on a 2-2 pitch into right field. Next came the team’s catcher, its leader, Kira Monandello, and she hit the first pitch into the gap in right-center, in raced Ianetta from first base, and the celebration began.
The disappointed Texas West wasn’t used to this. It had won the last two World Series, were playing before its home crowd in Waco, and had already rolled over Louisiana, 10-4, and Texas East, 5-1, so it probably didn’t expect to face River Edge in the final.
But it did, and it was the first defeat here at the huge and picturesque George W. Bush Complex for West after winning its first four starts, while Louisiana closed quickly to win three of four.
It was no doubt a remarkable effort downing both Texas teams that usually played in the title game. But the visitors shrugged it off, took care of business and left its faithful traveling fans hugging, high-fiving, and trying to believe what had occurred here in back-to-back games.
The Waco winner had won 11 World Series, the most by anyone. This time it doesn’t have to make traveling plans, but for Louisiana, it will be making its way to Portland and leaving the two Texas teams home.
These were two tough games, nothing like Louisiana’s 13-1 win over Mississippi and 15-0 win over Colorado. But it certainly saved its best for the semis and finals, included stellar hurling from Mounce and Gianina, sparkling fielding, and those key hits that won both times.
The next stop for Louisiana will be in Portland, where it will change to Southwest uniforms usually reserved for the Texas winner from Waco.
It opens Tuesday against the host team from Oregon, and follows it up with a Thursday contest versus the Latin American champion. Pool play is in effect here, with the top two team records advancing to the winner’s bracket.
What gives Louisiana a lift is having two good starting pitchers, excellent fielding, and a team that battles on the road.