Schuler shuts down Mexico’s late rally attempt
PORTLAND — South Williamsport ace Alizabeth Schuler knew the game was over before the umpire could ball up his fist to make the final strike call.
The Pennsylvania state champions took a 3-1 lead into the final inning of Saturday’s pool-play game against Mexico City, Mexico, at the Little League Softball World Series — which held up for the final score.
The Latin American champs would advance the tying run to second base only to have Schuler rise to the occasion in a pressure-packed spot.
She fired a strike through the top of the zone to put South Williamsport one pitch away from victory.
Next she peeked over toward the dugout and got the sign from her dad, assistant coach Chris Schuler.
“He was calling a very outside pitch, and I was just hoping to hit the spot,” Alizabeth Schuler said.
She delivered a perfect waist-high skimmer on the outside of the plate. Lopez took a lunging swing in what seemed slow motion and came up empty.
“As soon as she started for it, I knew she was out,” Schuler said.
The win gives South Williamsport (2-1) the inside track to the No. 2 seed out of its pool. The team secures that spot with a win in Sunday’s 10 p.m. late game against the Central champs out of Polk City, Iowa.
South Williamsport is automatically into the elimination round due to the Philippines going 0-4 in pool play. The top four teams advance in each pool.
“If we win tomorrow, we get the two seed no matter what,” South Williamsport manager Cory Goodman said. “You always want to nail down the highest seed possible, but we came here to get into the elimination bracket. We’ll play whoever they put in front of us.”
South Williamsport helped its cause in a big way with Saturday’s win, getting a boost with a heads up play early in the sixth inning. Mexico put early runners on and looked to do more damage with an infield hopper that clipped the edge of shortstop Sage Lorson’s glove. The ball took a lucky bounce and deflected directly to teammate Gianna Goodman, who was standing on second base to get a force out on Mexico’s lead runner.
“We had to get that out. If we don’t they probably score,” Cory Goodman said. “These are 12 year olds out here playing, but they sure know a lot about the game.”
South Williamsport struck first when Lynna Clark sent a double down the right-field line to lead off the second inning. She scored two batters later when Abby Lorson punched an RBI-single through the right side.
Gianna Goodman laid down a sacrifice bunt that saw Abby Lorson race nonstop around second base and slide safely into third. Mexico’s Jenny Robledo struck out the next batter to hold South Williamsport’s lead to 1-0.
“Any time you can get that first run up it’s a boost to your confidence, especially for a bunch of 12 year olds,” Cory Goodman said.
Mexico pulled even in the third when Itandehul Chapero sent a single through the left side.
The team would load the bases when power hitter Emily Aguilar stepped into the batter’s box. She whipped a grounder just foul down the third-base side, then did the same to the opposite part of the field.
The South Williamsport defense was on high alert.
Aguilar connected again on the next pitch — a hard-hopper down the third-base line — which Lynna Clark gloved cleanly before taking two quick steps for the force out at third to end the threat.
“I saw the ball coming and it was stress relieving. I knew it was in my hands, and I could finish off the inning,” Clark said. “Getting that out took a lot of pressure off.”
South Williamsport would regain the lead on the next pitch when Schuler blasted a home-run ball past the Pennsylvania state flag waving atop the left-field fence.
“It was really special. This is the World Series, and it has always been my dream to hit one here,” Schuler said. “I was going around the bases thinking, ‘oh my gosh, that actually happened.'”
It proved to be the game’s winning run, as South’s defense remained solid.
Mexico went down in order in the second when Lacey Kriebel trotted in three steps to catch a fly ball in center field, Clark got under a pop up at third base and Abby Lorson scooped up a grounder and beat the hitter to first base.
Mexico put the tying run on base twice in the middle innings, but never got that runner beyond first base. Schuler and Goodman each caught infield pop-ups to end a scoring chance in the fifth.
South Williamsport put up an insurance run in the bottom of the fifth when Lily Reidy drew a lead-off walk, advanced to second on a grounder by Sage Lorson and stole third base.
“That’s just who we are, and a lot of it comes down to the kids making decisions on the base paths,” Cory Goodman said.
The extra base proved key moments later when teammate Kendall Cardone put a bouncer in play to the right side. Mexico’s Chapero scooped up the ground ball cleanly, but appeared caught off guard by Reidy breaking for home. The slight hesitation proved costly, as Reidy scored standing up for a 3-1 lead.
Lorson ended up safely at second base.
LITTLE LEAGUE SOFTBALL
South Williamsport 3,
Mexico City, Mexico 001 000 — 1 7 1
South Williamsport 011 01x — 3 5 2
Jenny Robledo and (n/a). Alizabeth Schuler and Lily Reidy. W–Schuler. L–Robledo.
Top Mexico hitters: Itandehui Chapero 2-3, RBI; Nora Lopez 1-2; Maria Jose Olea 1-2; Emily Aguilar 1-3; Marian Hernandez 1-3. Top South Williamsport hitters: Alizabeth Schuler 2-3, HR, RBI, run; Lynna Clark 1-2, 2B, run; Sage Lorson 1-3; Abby Lorson 1-1, RBI.
Next game: South Williamsport vs. Iowa, today, 10 p.m. (EST) in Portland, Oregon.