Brittney Souza snags a fly ball Friday against Puerto Rico.

The Gilroy Junior All-Stars finish fourth at 2010 Little League
World Series and return home with a lifetime worth of memories.
By Monday morning everything was back to normal for the 12 Junior All-Stars from Gilroy.

They had already missed three days of school and there wasn’t an excuse to miss a fourth.

Last week a note of absence was easy to pen. The message may have read, “My daughter will not be in class today, she is attempting to play for a world title.”

Most assuredly, though, in the back of each of their minds as they sat in class Monday were the memories they formed during a week’s worth of softball, sight-seeing and friendships at the 2010 Little League World Series in Kirkland, Wash.

“It was great watching the girls evolve over the three weeks we were together,” manager Rudy Perales said. “Watching them as a parent and a coach having fun was great to see. Every game they were relaxed and ready to go. It was fun watching that maturity.”

After a 3-1 record through the round-robin pool play, the group of 13- and 14-years-olds affectionately known as the Garlic Girls in the circle of family and friends involved, rallied to a spot in the semifinals last Friday, one win away from the championship game.

“We were confident going into the game. We thought we had a chance,” Perales said.

The girls encountered a buzzsaw in the Latin America team from Puerto Rico.

The game lived up to the hype; sound fundamentals in the field and unforgiving pitching.

“We played outstanding defense all the way through, we just couldn’t get anybody on base,” Perales said.

Gilroy’s ace Holly Lam gave up seven hits and the one measly, yet all-important run in the first inning. However, she along with the rest of the offense were stymied to the tune of 17 strikeouts. And an offense that had come up with clutch hits on a regular basis time after time during the postseason, was held to just one base hit by the tournament’s eventual champion in a 1-0 loss.

“We faced a dominant pitcher,” Perales said. “She had a real nice rise ball and we just couldn’t lay off of it.”

Latin America defeated West Tampa 4-3 in the championship game.

“I take a lot of pride in knowing that Puerto Rico only scored one run against us,” coach John Green said. “As far as I’m concerned our game against them on Friday was the real championship game.”

By the time Saturday’s consolation final rolled around, the girls were mentally drained, Perales said. After such an energetic and emotional contest the night before, the girls ran out of steam and suffered a 13-5 loss, ending their stay in the Emerald State with a fourth-place showing out of eight of the best teams in the world.

Though some now head to different schools – seven of the players attend Gilroy High, four walk the halls of Christopher High and one dons the Presentation logo – they will forever be tied together as one team.

“I think they created a special bond with each other,” Perales said. “They may not become best friends but there’s a bond that they accomplished something that so few kids get to do. They will always have the memories of coming together and going through the state, regionals and World Series.”

Throughout the miles traveled, the group of parents, players and coaches rallied around the team, and that unifying experience also shone through as the wild ride came to an end.

“It’s not just the coach and the manager, the parents are a big part of it and their support,” Perales said. “It’s a community-coached team. The high school coaches even before we left came out to help with practice.”

This was the fourth Gilroy Little League softball team to advance to the Little League World Series and the first at the Junior level. It was also the farthest any Gilroy All-Star team moved through the tournament.

“Hopefully the rest of Gilroy knows we have the talent in Gilroy to do this again in future years,” Perales said.

From the players’ perspective

Mariza Rodriguez

Favorite non softball moment? Dancing with girls from other teams. After our game one day, we had a bbq. Guam girls put music on and we started smiling, singing, laughing,dancing together…Rudy joined in and danced with us. I never seen him dance before and didn’t think he would do that. I grabbed the Guam coach and taught him our dance move…it was so fun! We were just being ourselves…we compete against each other on the field, but off the field we got to share memories and have fun.

What did you learn about yourself? I learned that when I am hurt…I push myself and show my teammates that I won’t give up on them. I also learned that sometimes you have to play a different position than your are used to…trust the coaches decisions and play your best no matter what.

What will you remember most? All the laughs and fun times together. I will never forget hitting that homerun over the fence in my last at bat in the World Series on my birthday! My mom was so proud, she cried.

Brittney Souza

Favorite non softball moment? My favorite non-softball moment was hanging out with the girls, my team mates. You soon start to treat each other like sisters in a family, trusting each other, borrowing their clothes, and picking them up when they are down.

What did you learn about yourself? What I learned about myself is that in intense situations I pull through to get the job done. I learned that my team mates are there through thick and thin and that even though we are all so different we are banded together by one common passion: softball.

What will you remember most? I will remember the most of my time would be making it to the final four teams in the world.

– Some answers were cut for space and not edited for grammar or spelling

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