Lake Air rides to Little League Softball World Series crown
The Rowan All-Stars from Salisbury, North Carolina had been on the big stage before and were making their third straight appearance in the Little League Softball World Series finale.
And it was Rowan that got on the scoreboard first Wednesday night. at Alpenrose Stadium.
But it was Lake Air from Waco, Texas that quickly took charge on their way to a 7-2 win.
Lake Air got things started when leadoff hitter Asharah Thibodeaux knocked a single through the infield. She didn't need long to swipe second base, and teammate Serena Guardiola followed with a chopper through the left side. It was about the only thing that could slow down Thibodeaux, who took a couple chop steps to let the ball get past before flashing to full speed and sliding smoothly across home plate to bring her team even at 1-1.
Lake Air, representing the Southwest in the annual tournament, was just getting started.
Guardiola came home on a wild pitch, and Yanijah Quintanilla drew a walk.
Three batters into the game, and Rowan of the Southeast was going to the bullpen.
Makayla Ramos hit another chopper to the left side that pinch-runner Serenity Cade-Williams dodged before coming around to make it a 3-1 Lake Air lead.
"We stuck to our game plan, put the ball in play and got hits through some holes to make things happen," Lake Air manager David Rodriguez said.
The second inning brought more fireworks, with Quintanilla launching a shot that had the crowd thinking home run for a moment before it dropped behind North Carolina's center fielder for an RBI double.
Dominique Rodriguez was hit by a pitch with the bases loaded to force another run across. Ramos connected on an RBI single, and another run scored when the throw to first base sailed high.
The game was barely a half-hour old, and Lake Air was in front 7-1.
The Southwest champs carried that lead into the final at-bats of the game before taking on the top of Rowan's lineup in the sixth inning. The first two batters got on base, and Brooke Kennerly connected on a sacrifice fly to push across a run.
The game ended on the next swing -- a grounder to shortstop. Guardiola snapped it up with her glove and started a double play with a quick flick to second base.
"When teams see that kind of defense, it's easy to get frustrated," Rodriguez said. "We work on double plays a lot, always trying to turn them faster."
Arms went into the air, teammates embraced, parents serenaded from the bleachers and catcher Ulissa Rivas waved the Texas flag.
Lake Air was the World Series champion — the second straight year that a Texas team had left with the trophy — Greater Helotes from the San Antonio area won in 2016.