Cedar Mill fights to the end

The local all-stars end their World Series adventure in sixth place
by: MILES VANCE, GLAD TO BE HOME — Cedar Mill’s Dakota Stewart, shown here against Canada, and her Cedar Mill teammates gave it their all at the Little League World Series.

PORTLAND - Sometimes it's a shame there has to be a loser.

Such was the case for the Cedar Mill Majors all-star team after a 1-0 loss to Gilroy on Wednesday, Aug. 16, in the fifth-place game of the Little League World Series at Alpenrose Dairy.

Gilroy coach Gene Carlisle summed it up best in his post-game presentation.

'There wasn't a loser in this game,' Carlisle said, comforting a downcast Cedar Mill squad. 'Both teams deserved to win.'

Unfortunately for Cedar Mill, it just doesn't work that way.

Gilroy broke a scoreless tie in the bottom of the sixth and final inning when a pair of errors led to the game's only run. Still, Cedar Mill, the District 4 representative, took consolation in improving on last year's eighth-place finish.

'We just wanted to go out and do our best,' pitcher Jessie Moore said. 'Win or less, we were happy to get this far. I'm kind of disappointed, but in the end, we're happy we got sixth in the world.'

Moore put the clamps down on Gilroy, the West representative, throughout the game, allowing just four hits and one walk while striking out three. Gilroy didn't advance a runner past first base until the final frame.

'She was hitting her spots really well and throwing a lot of strikes,' catcher Cara Cason said.

And the defense backed her up until the sixth when a miscue ended the game. Gilroy's Casey Lester led off the inning by drawing the team's only walk. After a strikeout, Melanie Morelos' grounder up the middle was backhanded by second baseman Kim Ryder, but Lester beat her to the bag at second.

Nicole Lara followed with a full-counter grounder that got past the first baseman. Ryder was there for the backup and fielded the ball, but her underhand toss went over the glove of first baseman Anne Marie Richards, allowing Lester to race around third to score the winning run uncontested.

'It was painful,' Cedar Mill manager Bob Ryder said. 'I really wanted to give Jessie a win. I think that aggravated me more than anything. She did an absolutely tremendous job.'

While Moore did her part, Cedar Mill couldn't break through against Gilroy's Stephanie Rodriguez, who allowed three runners in four shutout innings.

'Their manager did a good job of throwing a slow pitcher first,' coach Ryder said. 'We hit really well. They just made some great defensive plays.'

Cedar Mill's Katie Mardesich had the game's only extra-base hit in the first. She lined a shot into the left-center field gap for a stand-up double. But a strikeout and fly out stranded her there.

Kim Ryder nearly put Cedar Mill ahead in the third, but her blast to deep left was tracked down and caught on the warning track.

Cedar Mill almost broke through in the sixth against Gilroy reliever Lester. Moore drew a one-out walk and went to second on a passed ball. Maddie Fey reached on a bunt single with Moore staying at second. Erin Gray followed with a hard liner to the shortstop, who snared the hot shot for the second out.

Sarah Wilson drew a full-count walk to load the bases, but a strikeout kept the game scoreless.

'We fought right to the end,' Bob Ryder said. 'We just didn't get the hit when we needed it.'

Gilroy struggled to do the same, but got the break it needed to win the contest between two West Coast teams.

'We really wanted to win for the bragging rights to say we were the best in the west,' Fey said. 'Either way, we did better than last year.'

And they did so against what most considered much tougher competition. The 2006 World Series contained several returning teams, including Cedar Mill and Gilroy.

'We played stronger teams and finished higher,' Bob Ryder said. 'There's some consolation in that. We played competitively with the top teams. What more can you want?'

And Cedar Mill enjoyed nearly every moment of it as a close-knit group on and off the field.

'The team unity was way better,' Bob Ryder said. 'This team wasn't based around a couple players. They all helped each other out.'

The team also had a more enjoyable host experience housing the Europe, Middle East and Africa representative from the Ramstein Air Force Base in Germany.

'They were the most polite, most positive kids I've ever met,' Bob Ryder said. 'Just top-notch kids, parents and coaches.'

'The German team was the best. They were really nice,' Moore agreed. 'It was a lot of fun meeting new people.'

Win or lose, that's something Cedar Mill will be able to take with them forever.