Host team Kirkland, Wash., proved to be a challenge for South Tampa in the pool-play round, holding the team from Florida to five runs on Tuesday, and that had coach Michael Valdes a little nervous about Saturday’s Little League Junior Softball World Series final.
“We knew this team, from the first time around, could play right there with us,” he said.
Those nerves were short-lived.
Saturday, South Tampa showed off the offense that has been its trademark. Its hitters couldn’t be stopped in the final, as an offense that averaged nearly 12 runs per game this week, pounded out 11 hits and cruised to a World Series title with a 10-1 victory.
Kayla McGory was a force for South Tampa, batting .538 in the tournament, and that continued in the final, as she went 4-for-4 with a double, three RBIs and three runs. McGory was expecting a tough outing against Kirkland pitcher Tori Bivens, who had 13 strikeouts in the teams’ previous meeting.
“As a team, we adjusted very well,” McGory said. “We were expecting it to be a 1-0 game, and things just worked very well for us.”
McGory led off the game with a single and later scored on a wild pitch. The 15-year-old shortstop then gave South Tampa all it would need, keying a four-run third inning with an RBI double. Haley Morrell and Brandea Rafferty each had RBI singles in the game.
Dana Rowley earned her sixth win of the tournament, striking out 10 and allowing four hits and one unearned run in the game. Rowley also helped her cause with three RBIs.
The World Series title was sweet reward for Valdes, who has coached the South Tampa All-Stars, this year a combination of players from Palma Ceia, Tampa Bay and Bayshore little leagues, in the postseason for three seasons. This is the second team Valdes has taken to the World Series, having lost in the final game two years ago.
“It’s a great way to go out, and this will be a much better plane ride than the last time we were here,” Valdes said. “This team loves one another, enjoys being around one another, and when you have a happy home everybody plays better.”