The TNT squad rallies to get 7-5 victory over Prague
PORTLAND They had to battle back from behind a couple of times.
They had to get their bats going.
They needed to make some clutch defensive plays.
And, in the end, they had to fight off a furious rally attempt.
But, for the Tigard/Tualatin City Little League Majors all-stars, every little bit of grit, guts, nervousness and nail-biting excitement was worth it.
Wow, was it worth it.
The Tigard/Tualatin City team, in thrilling fashion, picked up its first victory in Little League Softball World Series play, as it rallied past, and then held off Prague, Czech Republic, for a 7-5 win in a series pool play game played Saturday at Alpenrose Stadium.
That was really good, Tigard/Tualatin City shortstop Bella Valdes said after the team's victory celebration. I like this feeling. And I love how we battled to the end.
This was really awesome, said Emily Harms, who had an RBI triple in Tigard/TC's four-run fifth inning explosion. To come back and win like that was really exciting.
This means a lot to us, said Tigard/TC third baseman Brooke Clinton, who was the hitting star of the contest, with a pair of hits, including a double, and four RBIs. Even though we started slow, we're bringing it up now.
Prague, the Europe-Africa champion, moved to 0-3 in Pool A play at the World Series with the setback. Tigard/Tualatin City, representing Oregon District 4, improved to 1-2 in Pool A play with the win, keeping hopes alive of advancing to the semifinal round of the World Series.
We still have a chance for the semifinals, said Tia Cordts, who was the winning pitcher in Saturday's contest. I just want to get there, I don't care if we win or lose.
And Cordts had a premonition that the Tigard/TC team would come out on top in Saturday's game, despite losses to powerful teams from Ohio and Georgia to start the World Series.
I knew we could do it, she said. I just had a feeling for some reason. And I was right. We were all into it today.
We were more intense, said Elizabeth Hillier, who recorded the final two outs in the pitcher's circle to get the save. We really buckled down and focused, and it showed.
Tigard/Tualatin City faced an early deficit in Saturday's game. Prague, getting an RBI single from Lenka Bakusova and an RBI groundout by Anna Auricchio, took a 3-0 lead in the top of the first inning.
But the determined Tigard/TC team answered right back in its half of the frame.
Carly Atwood ignited the inning for Tigard/TC with a leadoff single to left field. She quickly proceeded to steal second base. Valdes followed with a walk and, one out later, Cordts reached base on a fielder's choice grounder, with Atwood beating the throw to third, to load the bases.
Clinton then came up with the first of her two big hits of the game, as she doubled to right-center field, driving in both Atwood and Valdes to cut the Prague lead to 3-2.
Oh my gosh, I was so happy, Clinton said of that hit.
Cordts scored later in the inning on a groundout by Harms to tie the game at 3-3.
The teams remained tied until the top of the third inning. Prague's Anna Duskova hit a two-out single and ended up scoring on a Tigard/TC error to give the Europe-Africa team a 4-3 advantage.
Tigard/Tualatin City threatened in the bottom of the fourth inning, as Jennifer Redfern and Gillian Livingston each drew walks. But Prague pitcher Kiara Pospechova got an inning-ending strikeout to get out of that jam unscathed.
But, in the bottom of the fifth inning, Tigard/Tualatin City, still down 4-3, weren't going to be denied and the TNT girls knew it.
You could just feel the energy, Clinton said. We all brought it in. And you could hear all of the cheering get louder.
Atwood walked on a 3-2 pitch to lead off the bottom of the fifth inning, and, again, she quickly stole second base. Valdes followed with a bunt single, with Atwood advancing to third base on the hit. One out later, and after Valdes stole second base, Cordts singled to center field, driving in Atwood to tie the game at 4-4.
Clinton stepped up to the plate after that, and, again, she stepped up big. This time, she laced a line-drive single to right field, driving in both Valdes and Cordts to give Tigard/TC its first lead of the game, at 6-4.
I was a little nervous, Clinton said of that at-bat. But, like (Tigard/TC manager) Chris (Cordts) says 'don't think about it.'
Following Clinton's big hit, Harms came up with one of her own, as she roped a line drive to right field, with the ball going all the way to the fence for an RBI triple, with Clinton scoring on the play to up the lead to 7-4.
I didn't think about it, Harms said with a smile. I just hit it.
We've been working on that, Chris Cordts said. Just swing the bat.
Tigard/TC took its three-run lead to the top of the sixth inning, but that's when it had to fight off Prague's rally attempt.
Michaela Otahalova reached base on an error to lead off the frame, and Sabina Markova followed with a walk. But Valdes came up with a clutch defensive play after that.
Ema Vodickova, the next Prague battler, smacked a hard ground ball that deflected off Clinton's glove. But Valdes scooped up the loose ball and outraced Otahalova to third base for the first out of the frame.
That felt really good, Valdes said with a smile. I always try to back up a ground ball, so I was already on my way over there.
That turned out to be a key play, as Natalie Tvrnikova followed with a single to center field, driving in Markova to cut the lead to 7-5, while also putting the potential tying runs on base.
Hillier took over the pitching duties at that point. She struck out Lenka Bakusova for the second out of the frame. She then got Duskova to ground out to Tigard/TC second baseman Logan Mentzer to wrap up the team's 7-5 win.
I just was excited, Clinton said. I ran up and hugged everyone. That felt really good.
We kinda all yelled, Tigard/TC outfielder Kendra Zuckerman said. Everyone just really wanted to win.
That was a lot of fun, said Harms, who, playing at first base, caught the throw from Mentzer for the final out of the game.
A 'W' always makes you feel good, Chris Cordts said. We played hard and came from behind. Hats off to our girls. They always go 110-percent. Top to bottom, we played really well. We played our brand of softball today, and we showed that no one runs the bases like we do.
In addition to Clinton's big day at the plate, Harms had a hit her fifth-inning triple and she drove in a pair of runs.
Tia Cordts, Valdes and Atwood added one hit apiece while each scoring a pair of runs.
Tia Cordts, in five and a third innings of work in the pitcher's circle, didn't give up an earned run while allowing three hits and striking out four. Hiller retired both batters she faced.
Our one-two punch with our pitchers worked pretty well, Chris Cordts said.
Tigard/Tualatin City will be back in action Sunday when it finishes Pool A play with a 10 a.m. contest against Latin America champion ASOFEM Little League from Manunabo, Puerto Rico.
We'll carry this over to tomorrow, Clinton said. We all want to win.
ASOFEM has a 1-1 record going into Sunday's game.
For more on this game, and Tigard/Tualatin City's other Little League Softball World Series Games, see the Aug. 14 issue of the Tigard/Tualatin Times.