Big hit downs local host team in Junior Softball World Series game

All it takes is one big hit to break a game wide open.

The all-star team of Bellevue and Mercer Island Little Leaguers serving as the host squad for the Junior League Softball World Series learned that the hard way Tuesday, as one big hit by the Southeast's Nikki Lopez made a small lead seem insurmountable in a 7-1 pool play loss at Everest Park in Kirkland.

Lopez hit a bases loaded triple as part of a five-run six inning for the Southeast team from Tampa, Fla., an inning that put away any hopes of a District 9 (host team) victory.

"The girls battled," said District 9 coach Mike Baumgartner. "The final score was not indicative how how well we played."

District 9, which is made up of girls from Bellevue West, Bellevue Thunderbirds and Mercer Island Little League, trailed just 2-1 heading into the top of the sixth. Steady pitching by starter Kaitlin Sahlinger and reliever Sydney Hooper limited the Southeast team to six hits entering the sixth; the Southeast runs came via an infield error and a fielder's choice. District 9 scored on an RBI double by Sahlinger in the bottom of the fifth to make the margin tight heading down the stretch of the game.

Then came the sixth. First baseman Kayla Fernandez led off the inning with a single. After CJ Jinks hit into a fielder's choice, Monique Puentes walked and Sydney Coleman singled to load the bases for Stacey Dominguez. Dominguez hit a chopper to third base that was relayed to home, but the throw brought catcher Claire McCarthy inches off the bag, allowing Fernandez to score to make it 3-1. The big damage came in the next at-bat, when Lopez tripled on a barely-fair line drive down the left field line that scored three runs.

"That one hit just caught the line and broke it for us," Baumgartner said.

Amanda Weathers hit an RBI single in the next at-bat to make the score 7-1. Lopez finished the game 3 for 3 with three RBIs.

Weathers was able to get District 9 to go down 1-2-3 in the bottom of the seventh inning to cement the win for Southeast. District 9 moved to 1-2 for the Series; the team lost to Latin America 16-1 Sunday before beating Canada 23-1 yesterday.

"We've had a chance in both of our losses," Baumgartner said. "Sadly we've just had one or two bad innings and they've piled up on us."

District 9 faces off with Southwest representative Midway Little League of Waco, Texas tomorrow at 4:45 p.m. before a bye on Thursday. Semi finals begin Friday with the championship game at 2 p.m. Saturday.

The championship game will be shown live on ESPN 2.

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