Windermere Wins 1-0 in Extra Innings; Will Play in Championship Game
Windermere’s Little League softball team is one game away from the world championship. A strong pitching performance from Lauren Mathis combined with heads-up defense and baserunning enabled them to shut out a Hawaii team that was batting over .300 for the series 1-0 in tonight’s semi-final game.
Windermere won the coin toss and elected to bat first. Generally, teams prefer to bat last if they have the choice, but the Little League pitching rules require a day of rest if a pitcher throws more than two innings. Batting first gave Windermere three chances to hit before they would have to make a decision to pull their pitcher.
On this bright, sunny afternoon at Alpenrose Stadium Mathis and Hawaii’s Mahina Piilani hurled shutouts for the regulation six innings. Mathis, chewing gum and cocking the yellow softball on her hip, windmilled fastballs and curves across the plate. Piilani worked efficiently, giving no free passes and getting lots of ground ball outs.
Piilani only allowed one hit through five innings. Windermere hit some sharp grounders up the middle, but Hawaii second baseman Lena Kotrys converted them into groundouts. Amanda Fleming singled to center to start the sixth, but solid shots from the next three batters all went straight to Hawaii fielders for outs.
Mathis allowed some more runners on base than Piilani did, but always was able to reach back for a strikeout or pop up when she needed it. Lexie Blair in left and Bri Guldin in center contributed some fine running catches to keep things close. Hawaii got a runner to third in the second inning but couldn’t score. After six innings the score was tied at zero and the game went to extra innings.
Catcher Maggie Wheless led off in the top of the seventh. She hit several hard fouls off Piilani and worked the count to 2-2 when Piilani threw a high change that had her swinging well before the ball reached the plate. The Hawaii catcher dropped the ball, but threw Wheless out at first. Pagane struck out and Lexie Blair, batting left handed, singled. Sidwell grounded out to end the inning.
Mathis had thrown over 100 pitches by the start of the seventh. Shannon Pascua-Stanton, led off with a soft liner to center for a single. Kodi Benoza came in to run. Cierra Kauhi beat out a perfect bunt dropped just to the left of Mathis. Benoza, sensing a championship just 120 feet away, tried to go to third on the throw to first. Sidwell alertly threw to Fleming at third and Windermere erased Benoza in a rundown. Instead of no outs, runners on first and second, it was one out, with a runner on first. Breisha Wagner sacrificed Kauhi to second. Daphne Pollard-Browne hit a sinking liner to center. Bri Guldin, playing back, had a long run in but caught the ball waist high for the third out.
Guldin leading off the 8th, hit a Texas Leaguer just over the head of shortstop Keani Nahinu that rolled just to the right of centerfielder Kauhi, who was coming in so fast the ball went past her. Guldin, running all the way, slid into second for a double. That was the first time since the fourth inning Windermere had a runner as far as second. Amanda Fleming laid down a perfect bunt. Guldin was now on third with one out. Hannah Cain bunted back to Piilani and Guldin, seeing the ball in the pitcher’s hand, stopped halfway to home. Piilani stared at Guldin for a long second, then wheeled and threw to first. Guldin then slid home with the first run of the game. Amanda Plasencia singled, but Mathis lined out to second to end the inning.
Mathis, three outs away from the championship game, seemed to throw harder in the bottom of the 8th. She got two quick strikes on Kotrys, but then walked her. Piilani, Hawaii’s best hitter, swung away and popped up to center. Nahinu bunted to move Kotrys to second with two outs. That left Mathis facing cleanup hitter Keelie Pak with two outs and a runner in scoring position. Pak fouled off two pitches, took a ball, fouled off two more, and then looked at a curve on the outside corner for strike three.
Mathis flung her glove in the air and danced out of the circle. The Windermere players and coaches came together for a group hug before lining up to congratulate their opponents. Windermere will play the team from Albuquerque, New Mexico, for the World Series championship tomorrow night. The Albuquerque team is the only one to go undefeated during the tournament. The game will air on ESPN 2 at 10:00 PM Eastern time.