PORTLAND, Ore. — Call it world dominance — at least for a day.
Elyria East’s Little League All-Stars had an impressive start in their opening game of the Little League Softball World Series, rolling over host Oregon 12-1 Thursday at Alpenrose Stadium in a game stopped after four innings by mercy rule.
The Elyria East 11- and 12-year-olds pounded out 13 hits to overwhelm the host team, which advanced to the tournament without playing state or regional tournaments.
The strong-armed pitching tandem of starter April Howser and reliever Faith Hamilton combined on a five-hitter and got error-free defense behind them.
“Every tournament is different and you just don’t know much about the host team until you play them,” said East manager Len Howser. “Usually you know less about them than any other team. You can never take any opponent for granted though. We know there’s some great teams here. We just have to continue playing softball at a high level, because there’s going to be some real tough battles for us throughout the tournament.”
Elyria plays its second game in pool play today at 3:30 p.m. against the European All-Stars from Milano, Italy.
Elyria got off to a good start, going up 1-0 in the bottom of the first inning on a Kaeli Evans RBI groundout that scored Howser (2-for-2), who hit a leadoff double.
Oregon knotted the score at 1 in the top of the second, but Elyria responded with a three-run rally.
Rybecca Kubisen (3-for-3, 2 RBIs) got things going with a leadoff double to center field. After Haley Schultz (2-for-2, RBI) reached base with a bunt, Kubisen scored on a passed ball.
After Emily Hyer drew a walk, Gabby Zerbini drilled a line drive to center for a two-run single, scoring Schultz and Hyer for a 4-1 lead.
Hamilton pitched the last two innings and didn’t allow any runs. She had one strikeout.
“I felt kind of nervous at first, but then after I started pitching well, I was able to relax,” Hamilton said. “It’s really exciting to be in the World Series. I think we’re capable of going all the way. We’re planning on playing throughout the tournament and make it to the championship game on Wednesday.”
Elyria’s potent offense proved to be nearly unstoppable in the bottom of the third. Elyria batted around, sending 12 batters to the plate and ripping eight hits and eight runs to build the final 12-1 lead.
“The strength of our team is that we have 12 players who can all swing hard and can hit the ball well,” Len Howser said. “Most of the players have been participating in batting training twice a week since last November. It didn’t matter what they were doing and nearly everyone always showed up to work on their hitting, and now it’s starting to pay off.”
Schultz, Cassandra Miller, Alexis Reinhardt (1-for-1, double) and Kubisen provided the key hits in the third. Kubisen smashed a shot that looked like it would clear the 209-foot left-field fence, but just bounced off the fence for a two-run double.
“I was totally hoping that it was going over the fence, because I was ready to do my home run jog,” Kubisen said with a smile. “I started out jogging at first, but after I heard it hit, then I started running faster. I had to stop at second base, but I was really hoping to get to third.”
Elyria, which lost in its district tournament a year ago, has four players back from that team in Howser, Reinhardt, Kubisen and Gabby Shackelford.
“It’s exciting being here, but I sure was feeling nervous at the beginning of the game,” Reinhardt said. “I feel more comfortable now, because it really just seems like any other tournament. It took lots of hard work and practice to reach the World Series. We had a big celebration when we won regionals at Indianapolis, and we’re hoping to repeat the same thing in Portland.”
Mike Weber is a freelance writer in Oregon.