First time for either the Buckeye state boys or girls to hoist the LL World Series championship trophy
By Arnie Leshin
It took awhile, but the state of Ohio can now proclaim itself the International Little League Softball World Series champion.
It was the first time Ohio, in boys or girls Little League, had every hoisted this prestigious trophy, and it was Wednesday night in Portland, Org, that the chance finally came via the 3-0 victory over the East champions representing the Tunkhannock LL from the nearby state of Pennsylvania.
Both teams wound up at 5-2. It shaped up as a close contest, and it was. The Wheelersburg LL scored the only runs with two in the top of the fourth and one in the sixth.
There were other key ingredients that resulted in the outcome. Winning pitcher Andijo Howard, a right-hander with control and a one-two delivery that featured a high or low fastball, and a nasty curveball that hit the inside or outside corners. She pitched the route of the 6-innng finale, giving up three hits while striking out seven and not serving up a walk.
The loss went to East right-hander Kaya Hannon, who also hurled the distance, but did not get the defense that her team had showed in previous games of this World Series for girls ages 11-to-13. She gave up four hits while striking out six and walking one.
But the Pennsylvania defense that had made only one error heading into the semifinals win Tuesday over the host team from Lake Oswego, committed two in that game and tacked on three more in the finals. But the East managed a 6-4 win while Central downed Southwest, 5-1.
Ohio played flawless ball and its pitcher was sharp from the start. She and Hannon were sailing along with a scoreless tie after three innings, but in the top of the fourth, the Wheelersburg girls took advantage of miscues to score all the runs it would need.
Maddison Kotcamp began things by reaching on an error in left field by Emily Patton, and raced to second base. Then Haley Myers’ one-out hit to right field, also mishandled, brought in Kotcamp and put Myers on second.
A ground out to second got Myers to third, and she sped to the plate on an infield safety to make it 2-0.
East had some chances, but never the key hits or alertness on the bases, plus Central got to every ball hit its way to shut down every Pennsylvania threat.
In the sixth, Ohio added an insurance run when Emily Smith grounded into a fielder’s choice at second to score Myers, who reached on an infield fly in front of home plate that dropped between Hannon and third baseman Paige Marshall.
East had at least one last chance, that coming in the last of the sixth, and came close to closing the gap or even tying the score. With two out, Ella McNeff lined a base hit to centerfield on a 3-1 pitch. Elaina Kulsicavege’s ground ball made it first and third, and with Hannon at bat, Kulsicavage stole second.
But Hannon grounded out to first base and was tagged as she approached the bag by Sydney Skiver. Then the celebration began, and for Central it was its first in the history of Little League World Series. It wound up the event before another capacity crowd and stellar weather conditions.
No rain, only splendid softball and Ohio finally winning a LL World Series.
Now it’s time for the LL boys. They open in South Williamsport, Pa. today with four games.