Look out, Kalamazoo, the District III Big League Softball team has won their first three games of the World Series Tournament and are two games away from the world championship.
Head Coach Donna Ward has all the confidence in the world in these ladies and attributes their success to hot bats, great defense, deep pitching, recent superstitions, competition throughout the year and their ability to just have fun.
District III had a tough test to start the tournament, having to face the defending champions — and host — team — Grand Rapids, Mich., but defeated them 8-6.
Ward said her team felt more comfortable in closer games, and that may have proved to be true in the tournament opener after the team saw a 6-1 lead get cut to 6-5.
“I think these girls like it better when the game is tight,” said Ward. “We were winning, and then Grand Rapids pulled to 6-5. Some girls get the nerves, but not these girls. They’ve been in a lot of big games and have had the pressure on them before.
“The level of competition has prepared these girls well for the World Series,” Ward continued.
One player who had considerable pressure on her was pitcher Kathryn Riley. The Indian River star was called in to get the final four outs to preserve the victory and didn’t have time for a warm up. She retired the last batter in the bottom of the sixth to get out of the inning.
Riley then had a bit of time to get loose, but who’s to say she wasn’t already, because she worked a one-two-three seventh inning to preserve the 8-6 victory.
“I was kind of nervous going in without warming up, but it’s easy as a pitcher when your defense is so strong,” said Riley. “We’re definitely winning as a team.”
Riley would also pitch the final five outs of the 12-4 win over Texas. After getting out of the sixth unscathed, Riley allowed two leadoff batters to reach base in the seventh before retiring the last three on only seven pitches. Not only did she strand two base runners, but she was personally responsible for the final three outs (strikeout, groundout and lineout to Riley).
“If [Riley] doesn’t go home with a big head, then I don’t know,” said Ward. “She’s done everything we’ve asked of her.”
District III has the luxury of having five starting pitchers it can pitch at any particular time, and good pitching always beats good hitting, which may bode well for Delaware’s finest as they push towards the championship.
Ward said she has so many great players on her team, and they are all willing to do what is necessary to get the win. Whether it’s laying down a sacrifice bunt or working the bases, District III is willing to do what it takes.
“Amanda Cordry has done everything we’ve asked,” said Ward. “She’ll lay down a bunt, but recently she’s been crushing the ball. She had six RBI on two doubles against Grand Rapids and Texas.”
“Lisa Williams has done a great job of getting on base,” said Ward. “She’s one of those players you hate to play against but love to coach. She really gets in the pitcher’s head and often times that can cause a mistake.”
Williams had four walks and three runs in the win against Texas.
District III’s hot bats have yielded 28 runs in only three games, and have shown no sign of cooling off so far.
“These girls step into the batter’s box with so much confidence that anyone of them has the potential to deliver a big hit at any particular time,” said Ward.
Ward stated that her team was pretty cool under fire and keeps pretty much to itself, but it has broken out of its shell, even adopting some superstitions.
“Most of these girls are all about business, but Bitty Hood has got them out there singing and dancing,” said Ward. “Amanda Cordry said that trying to remember all the songs and dances was her biggest pressure.”
“And in the game against Texas, one of our pitchers wouldn’t pitch until the umpire flipped the ball to her. He had been doing it all game and then for some reason he stopped and she called him over so he could hand her the ball,” continued Ward. “I’m pretty superstitious, and I guess it rubbed off on them.”
The girls have united, though they had been opponents for much of the year, and have become a family.
“It’s pretty cool how we’ve come together and played like a team, even though we played against each other in school ball,” said Riley.
The ladies have stayed with host families and many of them are in the same neighborhood so they have a support system close by but there is no replacement for your immediate family.
Krista Scott had a great day when she and her teammate Ashlie Workman sang a beautiful rendition of the national anthem after the scheduled singers left due to an extended game. But nothing would compare to seeing her mother. Krista’s mother worked 36 straight hours, then made the 13-hour car ride all by herself in time to make the second half of the first inning.
“It was really emotional,” said Ward. “Everyone was crying.”
Scott finished the game with an RBI and two runs.
District III has thrived on the family atmosphere and the fans that have followed them, according to Hood.
“It’s kind of weird that we have East on our jerseys, but all our fans are wearing green and are out here rocking it,” said Hood.
Following their big win over Texas, District III turned around to defeat Puerto Rico 8-3 in a strenuous game.
“Their pitcher tried to stall us out, so we had to step out of the batter’s box to get control of the game,” said Hood. “It was kind of aggravating.”
District III nonetheless squeezed past a talented Puerto Rican team and prepares to face Canada for their final pool game on Aug. 17 (after the Point deadline). If they were to win that game, their next opponent will be the winner of the other pool. The winner of that game goes to play for the Big League World Series Championship on Aug. 20. The championship game will be aired on ESPN2, at 5 p.m. on Aug. 29.