An unforgettably wild ride
2013 Little League World Series: Tualatin City team, which includes four players from Newberg, rallies for a dramatic 6-5 victory over Puerto Rico and will face the Philippines in the seventh-place game Wednesday
Like most ball players, Kendra Gooding has dreamed about the situation: two outs, with the score tied in the final inning of an important game and a full count with the bases loaded.
Gooding, a member of the Tualatin City Major All-Stars, was put in that very position Sunday at the Little League Softball World Series and came through, drawing a walk to bring home the winning run for a 6-5 victory over Puerto Rico at Alpenrose Stadium in Portland.
It was the final play in a two-inning rally that saw Tualatin City erase a 5-1 deficit and while that scenario had played out in Goodings mind, when she reached first base, she didnt realize the game was actually over.
I thought we were just going to keep going, said Gooding, who is one of five Newberg players on the cooperative all-star team. Then my first base coach told me it was over, and everyone just attacked me. I just ran to the other girls that were running at me. Im usually not in the middle of the group hugs, Im usually on the outside.
Representing the Latin America region, Puerto Rico fell behind 1-0 when Newbergs Maddie DeVerna scored in the bottom of the first, but notched runs in the top of the second and third to go up 2-1.
Puerto Rico scored three more runs in the top of the fifth inning to surge ahead 5-1, but Tualatin City had fought its way back in similar situations before, rallying from an 8-6 hole to beat Willow Creek in the final inning of its opening game at the Oregon District 4 tournament a few weeks earlier.
Tualatin City wasted little time in responding Sunday, with leadoff hitter DeVerna drawing her third walk of the game and eventually scoring on a wild pitch two batters later. Following another pair of walks, a trend that ultimately undid Puerto Rico, Gooding reached on a grounder and two more run scored when the third baseman overthrew first base.
Puerto Rico eventually got out of the inning, but went down 1-2-3 in the top of the sixth and final inning to set up a dramatic finish. Newberg player CheyAnn Lang and DeVerna both drew walks to start the inning, putting all the pressure on Puerto Ricos pitcher and its defense.
Puerto Rico came through, getting the lead runner on a sacrifice bunt and getting a strikeout to secure two outs, but then surrendered another walk to load the bases.
Newbergs Noelle Sawyer drew the fifth consecutive walk of the inning to score DeVerna and tie the game 5-5, setting up Goodings make or break moment.
By this point, the momentum was squarely on Tualatin Citys side.
We had confidence we could do it, assistant coach Kevin Potter said. We needed to be patient up there and not swing at anything that wasnt a strike. We knew they were getting rattled, theyre coaches, their fans, their players, because momentum was going our way and we just capitalized on that.
When the final pitch was called a ball, most of the players on the team reported feeling relief more than anything, then exploded in a joyful celebration on the field.
My heart was just pounding really fast, Lang said. Its so weird how it happened.
The comeback was symbolic of the teams overall experience at the World Series, where it lost 12-1 to Elyria, Ohio, and 11-1 to McLean, Va., in its first two games.
Tualatin City turned things around with a 7-1 victory over Milano, Italy, Saturday.
Were very proud of them, Potter said. Theyve played and battled very hard every game. Even in the games we lost, the scores in our eyes werent reflective of the games. And those first two teams we played were probably two of the better teams, if not the best teams in this tournament.
In a surprising twist of events, Puerto Rico turned around and beat Elyria 12-2 Monday, creating a three-way tie in the standings between those two teams and Tualatin City, all of which finished 2-2. McLean finished 4-0 to win Pool A and qualify for the semifinals, while Puerto Rico won the three-way tiebreaker, based on giving up the fewest runs per inning (.773) on defense, to advance as well. Elyria finished second in the tiebreaker having given up 15 runs in 19 innings (.789) and fell into the fifth place match. Tualatin City, which surrendered 28 runs in 22 innings for a 1.27 average, will face the Philippines in the seventh-place game at 9 a.m. Wednesday.