The District 4 champions now look ahead to the 2011 Little League World Series at Alpenrose on Aug. 11-17
by: BECCA QUINT THE DEFENDERS — Willow Creek shortstop Emma Gordon (here at district) leaps for a throw while backed up by teammate Maya Macey.

The Willow Creek Majors softball all-stars always knew.

While the all-star teams from Raleigh Hills, Murrayhill and Tualatin City were certain that they would be the District 4 champions, Willow Creek knew better.

And now, the Willow Creek all-stars - whose players are culled from just two teams - are ready to do it again at the Little League Softball World Series.

Willow Creek, which earned an automatic berth to the World Series by virtue of its District 4 championship, opens play in the Series at 5 p.m. Aug. 11 with a game against Wilkes County Little League of North Carolina, the Southeast champion, at Alpenrose.

'The girls all play a lot of ball, most of them also play ASA, so they're confident, but they're nervous too,' said Willow Creek manager Matt Jaekel. 'They're confident, especially the older girls, but when you say 'You're going to play Canada or Asia-Pacific' or whoever, there's some nerves too.'

That said, there were some nerves at district too, but Willow Creek overcame those jitters to walk away with the tournament championship after going just 2-2 in pool play.

'I was pretty confident that we had the best team before we started all-stars because we'd already beaten Murrayhill and Beaverton,' Jaekel said. 'But then when those teams combined for all-stars, together they were good ballclubs.'

Willow Creek is led by pitcher Isabella Carino (she also plays right field), catcher Emily Preble and first baseman Madeline Jaekel, and also features Maya Macey at second base, Emma Gordon at shortstop, and Sam Lay at third. Jenny Marnin starts in left field, leadoff hitter Emma Williams is in center, and Sydney Rusin plays right. Rusin is also the team's No. 2 pitcher, while Makayla Davis plays third base and outfield, and Maddie Raleigh plays first base and outfield.

'We've got pretty strong pitching, excellent baserunning - we're very aggressive - we bunt a lot, slap a lot and try to put a lot of pressure on teams,' Matt Jaekel said. And when we're 'on,' we're very good defensively.'

And if Willow Creek is 'on' at the Series, the team may just be able to make another stirring run.

'We know the U.S. teams will be a handful, that's for sure,' Matt Jaekel said. 'But if they can get off to a good start, I think they can hang with anybody.'

In its other Series pool play games, Willow Creek faces Muntinlupa City Little League of the Philippines (the Asia-Pacific champ) at 8 p.m. Aug. 12, Lombardia Little League of Milano, Italy (the EMEA winner) at 10 a.m. Aug. 13, and New City Little League of New York (the East champion) at 8 p.m. Aug. 15.

World Series semifinals are set for 4 p.m. and 6:30 p.m. Aug. 16, and placing games on for 9 a.m., 9:15 a.m. and 11:45 a.m. Aug. 17, with the third-place game due at noon, and the tournament championship at 4 p.m. Aug. 17.

The rest of the World Series field includes: Sterling Little League of Illinois, the Central champion; ASOFEM Little League of Maunabo, Puerto Rico, the Latin America champ; Midway Little League of Waco, Texas, the Southwest winner; Westchester-Del Rey Little League of Westchester, Calif., the West champion; and the as yet to be determined Canadian champion.

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