South girls lose to Iowa in pool-play game
PORTLAND, Ore. — The South Williamsport all-stars got off to a great start in Sunday night’s pool-play finale at the Little League Softball World Series, but they were unable to keep things rolling in a 4-2 loss to the Central champs out of Polk City, Iowa.
South Williamsport’s Alizabeth Schuler opened the game by drilling a double to center field. Next up, teammate Lily Reidy sent a single to the same part of the field.
Several swings into the game, and South Williamsport already had the lead.
The squad increased its margin to 2-0 when Lynna Clark bounced a two-out single through the left side of the infield.
Unfortunately that proved to be their only scoring of the night.
“We started out hot, then we just went flat and I’m not really sure why,” South Williamsport manager Cory Goodman said.
The Iowa all-stars tied the game in the bottom of the first, highlighted by Madi Simoens’ lead-off triple.
The game remained deadlocked through two innings when South Williamsport’s Gianna Goodman charged in three strides and flipped her glove over to snag a catch inches off the dirt. For good measure, she made the toss to first base to ensure her team got the third out of the inning.
Polk City put together its winning surge in the third inning with Maggie Mortenson’s sacrifice grounder providing the go-ahead run.
South Williamsport had two chances to rally.
The first came when Clark smacked a double to left field that passed just in front of a rushing outfielder’s glove to start the fourth inning. She found her way to third base only to be stranded when Iowa pitcher Ava Husak struck out back-to-back batters.
South Williamsport tried again in the fifth when Schuler came up with her second double of the night — this time banging a hit off the bottom of the left-field fence. Reidy sent a sacrifice fly to right field that allowed Schuler to advance to third base, but she would get no farther when shortstop Lauren Ausborn handled a hard-hopper in the dirt to end the inning.
“We just didn’t get the timely hitting tonight, which is something we’ve been doing all year,” Cory Goodman said.
South Williamsport went down in order in the sixth.
Despite the loss, South Williamsport retained its hold on the No. 2 seed out of its pool based on the ‘runs allowed’ tiebreaker. Mexico City took the 3 seed and Central finished as the last qualifier into Monday’s quarterfinals.
South Williamsport begins the elimination phase of the Series by taking on host Oregon in Monday’s first quarterfinal game with a 1 p.m. first pitch.
“Now it’s win or go home, sure there are consolation games, but if you lose now your season is basically over,” Cory Goodman said. “We haven’t lost an elimination game yet, so hopefully we will keep it rolling.”
Part of the puzzle Sunday night was balancing the pitch load knowing the team would be back at the ballpark 12 hours later.
Schuler, who had pitched all 18 innings to start the Series, threw the first half of Sunday’s game before giving way to Clark. She shutout Polk City through the final three innings, escaping a jam in the fourth inning.
Iowa’s Elyse Engebretson connected for a lead-off single and found her way around to third base. She would be frozen there when Clark struck out the next two batters, coming back from down 3-1 in the count to get the last batter.
“She threw really well and beared down to get out of a tough spot,” Goodman said. “We didn’t want to burn up our pitching tonight.”
Clark’s shutout effort over the final three innings, not only kept the game within striking distance, but also kept South Williamsport comfortably ahead of Mexico City in the runs allowed tiebreaker.