Florida brought the Senior Softball Little League World Series Championship back to the good ol’ U.S. of A. on Aug. 13 by defeating Puerto Rico 1-0.
First baseman Morgan Grove hadn’t had a hit in a couple of games, but she finally broke out of the funk in the top of the seventh inning, and delivered on an RBI double when hits were at a premium.
“Morgan has been our emotional leader for us throughout the season, but she hadn’t hit well in the tournament,” said South Head Coach Marisol Hester. “She was due for a hit.”
Florida collected five hits on Puerto Rico’s towering pitcher Ninostra Amaro, but stringing them together to get runs proved difficult. Puerto Rico’s inverted defense forced Florida to hit line drives or reach base on errant throws.
The win was bittersweet because Florida had lost 1-0 to Puerto Rico only five days before on an errant throw, which was a shame because starting pitcher Alyesse Stapf was pitching a no-hitter.
Stapf struck out five batters and allowed only two hits while working five one-two-three innings.
“This was the team everyone wanted to beat, and we played them tough in the first game and were beating them, but lost the game,” said Hester. “The girls showed a lot of determination.”
Puerto Rico had a chance to tie the game in the bottom of the seventh after Rosaly Martinez slapped a single into right field with one out. Amaro hit into a 1-6 fielder’s choice, Amaro moved to third on a Yinosra Claudio’s line drive to right field.
Lizandra Berrius would strike out, but the final pitch was dropped and catcher Katie Schafheimer rifled the ball to the Grove’s glove before Amaro could score, ending the game and Puerto Rico’s hopes of becoming champions.
“I was extremely nervous,” said Stapf. “I thought I was going to puke.”
Florida had another close game against the Punxsutawney team, and barely eeked out a 2-1 victory to put them in the game.
Punxsutawney’s duo of pitchers Brooke Gallen and Gina Orcutt limited Florida to six hits, and only walked one while striking out four. The remainder of the outs were secured by their handy defense and made every play except two — the ones that scored.
Shortstop Katie Ely belted an RBI double to score Danielle Chapman, who moved over to second on a Kristen Martin sacrifice bunt. Schafheimer accounted for the final Florida run on an RBI single to score Martin.
Stapf fanned seven batters through four innings of work, but made way for Grove to work the final three innings.
Grove started the fifth inning a little shaky — giving up a leadoff walk but would strike out three batters to end the inning. Grove would strike out four altogether and give up one run to Lauren Martino, who scored Tiffany DuPont on an RBI single.
Despite giving up a leadoff walk and another sandwiched in between two strikeouts, Grove had to settle herself to give her team a chance to get into the championship game.
“I was rushing myself in the first at-bat and my mechanics were off,” said Grove. “From there I took deep breaths and took my time.”