Latin America takes the title
In 2007, the ASOFEM Junior Little League Softball team from Maunabo, Puerto Rico, headed by manager Carlos Garcia, made history when it captured the international title in Seattle, Wash. Garcia did it again last Saturday, as he led the Senior Softball Little League team from Puerto Rico to the championship, defeating the USA East team from West Cumberland, N.J., 3-2, for the world series crown.
Last Wednesday, Aug. 6, mid-week in the series, the USA East team managed a 5-2 victory over the Latin American team, but the girls from Maunabo, Puerto Rico, were not about to go down without a fight as the two squared off for the championship. Latin America’s final victory was fueled by pitcher Nemesis Vega, who threw five strikeouts, four of which closed out innings three through six.
In Saturday’s championship, the West Cumberland team was the first to break the deadlocked score, as Janelle Rodriguez tagged home thanks to a fourth-inning double from Shayna Perella. ASOFEM answered back, though, as an error in the bottom of the fourth scored Kiara Nazario. With a runner on third, Alexandra Berrios bumped one out to left field to give Latin America the lead. The East responded the next inning, scoring again off of a single from Alysa Romero.
With the scoreboard fixed at two apiece, leading into the bottom of regular innings, Latin America turned it on. A shot to centerfield put Rodriguez on first, and a subsequent walk gave ASOFEM a favorable advantage. Desiree Rivera’s shot in the infield was enough for the wining run, giving ASOFEM and manager Carlos Garcia another championship trophy.
USA East pitchers Kylie Kristovich and Leanne Miller combined for seven strikeouts but couldn’t hold off the Puerto Rican team.
“Our win in 2007 was great,” said Garcia of the Junior Little League World Series win, “but this one’s even better. This year was very difficult because there were injuries to deal with.”
Following up on Wednesday’s loss against the New Jersey team was no easy task, either.
“We had to come out and play hard,” he added. “We made the adjustments that we needed. I told the girls to keep working harder and, in the seventh inning, you’ll get what you wanted.”
USA East manager Gary Woodruff wasn’t discouraged by his team’s performance, stating, “I’m not shedding any tears.”
“With two elimination games, where we had to beat Latin America and come back and beat Asia Pacific — and Canada was in there, too — that’s asking a lot. I think the game took a lot out of us,” he said of their game against Asia-Pacific.
Though the rematch against the ASOFEM team for the title didn’t fall in his favor, he gave praise to the competition.
“You have to give Latin America a lot of credit,” he said. “We beat them last time. I told our girls that we had to play like we were the ones that lost the first time. We needed that fire in us.”
A runners-up finish was just fine with Woodruff.
“I’m thrilled with our finish,” he said. “We played 24 games to get here. If you told us that we were going to finish second in the world, I wouldn’t have believed it. I’ve had a lot of fun, but the girls played well and they’ve got a lot to be proud of.”
The hosting District III team from Laurel defeated the Asia-Pacific team for a third-place finish.
The success and growing publicity of the Little League World Series has brought Roxana and lower Delaware to the limelight of worldwide sports.
“It brings a lot of excitement to Sussex County to bring in teams from all over the world,” said Delaware State Rep. Gerald Hocker. “There are well over 2,000 people here to see that. My boys played Little League here almost 30 years ago, and I’ve been coming out here every year.”
The original Springtime Jamboree, an annual musical fundraiser started by Hocker, was to designed benefit Lower Sussex Little League. Hocker said he’s now looking to fund the Pyle Center venue with federal and state money for more bleacher seats.
“The weather was beautiful, we had great volunteers, and we met a lot of new, wonderful people,” said Bruce Layton, president of the Lower Sussex Little League. “This year’s World Series was incredible. You really get a feel for different cultures. It’s really good for the community. It’s become a gathering now. People are learning about the area.”
Hundreds of hours of time and careful planning go into the series each year.
“The concession workers, umpires, field maintenance crew, medical staff and volunteers deserve a lot of credit,” Layton added. “We couldn’t do it without them.”