But they didn’t sweat. Not much, anyway.
The Elyria East 11- and 12-year-old Little League softball All-Stars picked up two more wins Thursday along with a regional championship and a trip to the Little League World Series in Portland, Ore.
Elyria East continued its dominating play in the semifinals Thursday, crushing a pitching-strapped Illinois club 17-2 before rallying for a 9-5 win over Michigan in the title game.
In all, Elyria East outscored its five regional foes 51-12.
“I’m very excited because this has been a dream of mine since I started playing Little League,” said East pitcher April Howser.
“It was an unbelievable feeling when we got the final out and all the girls ran onto the field,” said manager Len Howser, April’s dad. “Priceless.”
If East did any sweating it was when they briefly fell behind in the first inning of the championship game. Michigan used a double, two errors and a wild pitch to grab a 2-0 lead.
But East had an answer … and then some, scoring five runs in its half of the inning.
Howser led off with a deep shot to right for a triple and scored on Alexis Reinhardt’s double to left-center. Reinhardt went to third on a groundout and scored on a wild pitch to tie the game at 2.
Gabby Shackelford, who drew a walk and went to second on a passed ball, scored on Rybecca Kubisen’s sharp grounder that went under the legs of the Michigan first baseman.
Haley Schultz then drove in Kubisen with a double to left and scored on an Emily Hyer grounder to short that resulted in a throwing error.
“I knew I had to get something started,” April Howser said of her leadoff triple. “We were behind and we needed some runs to catch up. I really wanted to win.”
“We practice hitting a lot,” Faith Hamilton said. “We swing our bats like we were taught and we hit it … far.”
Howser started things off again in the second with a single and scored on Reinhardt’s triple over the left fielder’s head. A Kaeli Evans single brought Reinhardt home and made the score 7-2.
Elyria East kept pouring it on, adding two more runs in the third. Kubisen singled and went to second on an error. After Damia Parks walked, Gabby Zerbini drove in Kubisen with a single and Howser brought Parks home on an infield hit.
Michigan added a run in the fourth and two in the fifth but couldn’t get any closer.
In the semifinal, Howser pitched three innings and Hamilton one as East won by mercy rule over an Illinois team that had used its top pitcher Wednesday.
East pounded out 14 hits in the game as Shackelford was 3-for-3 with two doubles, Hamilton
2-for-2 with a double, Reinhardt 2-for-2 with a double, Zerbini 2-for-2 and Howser 2-for-3. Kubisen, Schultz and Hyer had a hit each.
East, which will represent the Central Region, opens World Series play Aug. 8 against Oregon, the host team. Africa, Southeast United States and Puerto Rico are the other teams in East’s pool.
As thrilling as all the winning has been, Hamilton has another reason for being excited.