GLL ALL-STARS: World Series here they come

Mariza Rodriguez rips a single. Photo courtesy of John Green

The Gilroy Little League junior softball All-Stars upended
Thornydale (Arizona) 10-3 on Tuesday night in Marana, Ariz, staking
their claim to a spot at the Little League World Series in
Kirkland, Wash.
With a trip to the Little League World Series hanging in the balance, the Gilroy Little League junior softball All-Stars took center stage under the bright lights of Crossroads Park and put together an award-winning performance.

The girls from Gilroy upended Thornydale (Arizona) 10-3 on Tuesday night in Marana, Ariz, staking their claim to a spot at the Little League World Series in Kirkland, Wash.

“You always hope that you can do it and you have the players,” manager Rudy Perales said. “But when it happens, you are in awe. We worked hard and this was our dream. And the girls made it happen. They never gave up and battled.”

This is the first time a Gilroy juniors All-Star team has made it to the World Series. In fact, there wasn’t even a juniors division last season, and there hadn’t been for seven seasons prior, Gilroy Little League Commissioner Jeff Sosa said.

“We hope we can keep it going for Gilroy,” Perales said.

The World Series begins August 15.

Avoiding the losers bracket, and posting a perfect 4-0 record during the West Region tournament, the group of 13 and 14 year olds outscored opponents 36-11 en route to the title. Gilroy scored 10 or more runs in three of the four contests. The one exception, a narrow 5-4 victory to advance to Tuesday’s championship affair.

With Gilroy a flawless 3-0 heading into the contest, and Thornydale already strapped with one loss (10-0 to Gilroy on Friday), it was not a do-or-die situation. However, there was no chance Gilroy wanted to risk getting to that point. Priority No. 1 – get it done Tuesday. And that’s just what they did.

“They are always relaxed and come in loose,” Perales said of his focused bunch. “When you see that, you know they are ready to play.”

Once again, starting pitcher Holly Lam controlled the flow of the game in the circle. Lam, the team’s big-game go-to pitcher, fanned 13 would-be hitters to get the complete-game win.

“I have three pitchers and have confidence in all three,” Perales said. “But Holly is definitely a special player. We can rely on her and know she can keep us in the game. With the defense behind her, we have confidence on our team.”

Despite falling behind 1-0 after the first inning, the girls soon returned to familiarity – ahead on the scoreboard – taking a 2-1 lead after two innings.

The girls played small ball in the bottom of the second to grab the advantage.

“When we get runners on base, we have to be prepared to get to the next base,” Perales said.

That simple formula paid off.

Mariza Rodriguez, who led off the inning with a double, later crossed home on an Adrianna Ortega RBI-double. Lam helped her cause, chasing in Ortega with a sacrifice fly.

Cashing in on a crucial Thornydale error in the third inning, Gilroy tacked on three runs in the frame to extend its lead to 5-1.

“It’s huge at this age. You have to take advantage of anything they give you,” Perales said of his team’s tenacity to strike when the iron’s hot. “We were able to capitalize and the momentum built for us.”

With Kristen Dennis on base with a single, Rodriguez ripped a hot shot to right field, which was bobbled and dropped allowing Dennis and Mackenzie Mitchell (walk) to scurry home. Ortega put a powerful exclamation point on the inning with a RBI-triple.

Rodriguez put Gilroy up 6-1 in the fifth with an RBI-single before the girls enacted the finishing touches on their championship in the sixth.

Brittney Souza opened the four-run sixth with an RBI-triple and later scored on a Dennis baseknock. Dennis and Mitchell owned the final tallies of the evening, touching home after an error.

“They just bonded,” Perales said. “They are all close friends and know how to play the game well. They have confidence in each other.”

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