In most cases there is a bright side. For the Gilroy Little League Junior division softball All-Star team its shiny beacon was a 12-10 victory over Southern California at the Little League Western Regional in Arizona on Tuesday.
The come-from-behind win – Gilroy trailed 7-0 after three innings but scored eight runs in the top of the fourth to begin the comeback – became the signature moment of the tournament for the locals, whose season ended in 10-8 loss to eventual runner-up Oregon on Wednesday.
“We accomplished one of our goals by beating them,” Gilroy manager Nelson Villanueva said of getting past Southern California – a team that had eliminated his All-Star team at different divisions in the last two seasons. “It was a big mountain for these girls. That made the trip worthwhile. That was huge.”
That win sent Gilroy into the semifinals, where it encountered Oregon – which had handed Gilroy its first loss of the summer earlier in bracket play.
“The two games we lost to Oregon, we faced the best pitcher in the tournament,” Villanueva said. “She was a lefty who threw low-to-mid 60s with her fastball.”
Colette Robert pitched the first four innings and kept Gilroy batters at bay as Oregon built a 6-1 advantage. Upon her exit, however, Gilroy’s offense woke from its slumber and eventually pulled within one, 9-8, in the sixth.
The girls jumped on the new pitcher,” Villanueva said. “If anything, we were going to make it getting the win against us hard on them.”
Robert reentered into the game, and Oregon tacked on an insurance run in the top of the seventh, while Gilroy went scoreless in its half.
“Yeah, we are disappointed, but we worked our way through the loser’s bracket to get to the semifinals,” Villanueva said. “We played our hearts out, the girls fought and battled the weather – 100 degrees and lightning storms.”
Gilroy finished the 11-team tournament in third place. Alaska beat Oregon in the final, 14-1, to advance to the Little League World Series.
“We are going to try get here again next year,” Villanueva said. “So we will see what happens.”
In the final loss, Mackenzie Holt and Nicole Villanueva had two hits. Liezl Clark, Alexis Conlon, Michaela Decker, Pati Soria and Karli Martinez each had one hit.
Gilroy scored its 12 runs on seven hits in the comeback victory over Southern California a day earlier.
Brook Loesch highlighted that effort with a triple and three RBIs. Villanueva added two RBIs, while Conlon, Soria, Martinez and Clark were credited with one RBI apiece.
After suffering its first loss to Oregon, Gilroy had to a run-in with Arizona, winning that 9-5 to stay alive.
Stephanie Amstutz, Cynthia Del Real and Clark had one RBI, and Holt and Loesch knocked in a pair.
Morgan England scored once in each of the final two games.
Adrianna Figone, Conlon and Holt carried the pitching duties. Conlon recorded one win and Holt three.
“The entire team wants to show our gratitude to league president Christie Miranda and the Gilroy Little League board members,” Villanueva said. “They did a lot for us to be able to do this. They went above and beyond.”