- About Us
Kirkland team takes third during Junior Softball World Series
The Junior Softball World Series came to an end Saturday but not before a little controversy and the host team from Kirkland making some history. The West team, Nunaka Valley Little League of Anchorage, Ak., won the championship by defeating the Canadian team 6-2 during the finals.
Washington District 9 from Kirkland achieved something that no host team has since 2002 by qualifying for the semifinals and ultimately placing third overall.
“It is a growing experience and there are a lot of emotions that they played with,” said Kirkland coach Nolan Radke. “They had a lot of fun.”
The host team was made up of players from Kirkland National and Kirkland American Little League. All 22 games were played at Everest Field in Kirkland. The championship game was broadcast on ESPN2.
The Kirkland players defeated ASOFEM Little League of Maunabo, Puerto Rico, 7-3, during the consolation final on Saturday. Kirkland was led by Lisa Nelson, who went 3-for-4 with a double, three RBI and a run scored, and Tori Bivens, who was 2-for-4 with two RBI and a run scored during the contest.
The Kirkland players had to do a lot of work as the host team leading up to the tournament including fundraising. One thing they did not do for four weeks leading up to the tournament was play a game. Despite the layoff, the Kirkland team won its first three games of the World Series.
“It was a lot of work to get here,” said Kirkland’s Kara Phillips. “The whole experience, getting to know the other players and living together was a lot of fun.”
Kirkland lost to Nunaka Valley on Friday, 9-2, during the semifinals with Tatum Kawabata collecting Kirkland's only RBI. But the fact that Nunaka Valley was in the semifinals was the focus of some controversy. Nunaka Valley played ASOFEM during the final game of pool play, losing 9-5. The loss left the two teams, along with West Haven Little League of Connecticut, in a three-way tie with 3-1 records from pool B. Little League rules dictate that three-way tiebreakers are first based on the least runs allowed per innings played. The team that gave up the least number of runs would automatically take the top seed.
“The tiebreaker is designed to reward good defense,” said Junior Softball World Series Tournament Director John Chadwick.
The tiebreaker for the remaining two teams is decided by their head-to-head game results in pool play. Since Nunaka Valley defeated Connecticut during pool play 8-5 they won the second tiebreaker.
But many fans of the Connecticut team claimed that the Nunaka Valley team quit playing during the final few innings of the game against ASOFEM by walking to first base on batted balls.
“I saw the play that was controversial and it could have been interpreted either way,” said Chadwick, noting that the umpires had the authority throw the Nunaka Valley team out of the tournament.
Connecticut fans claim that Nunaka Valley used the rules to their advantage in an unethical manner after realizing they had little chance to beat ASOFEM. By not scoring more than five runs during the final pool-play game, Nunaka gave ASOFEM the first three-way tiebreaker. Because Nunaka Valley defeated West Haven head-to-head they earned the second tiebreaker.
If Nunaka Valley had scored more than five runs during the game and lost, the West Haven team would have won the three-way tiebreaker and ASOFEM would have advanced based on the win against Nunaka Valley.
The team from Connecticut appealed their elimination from the semifinals on Thursday afternoon to the national Little League office in Williamsport, Penn. but the appeal was denied prior to the start of the semifinals.
Chadwick said that the league office ruling was final and impartial: “They look just at the facts.” He also said that as tournament director he plans to look at other formats for the tournament next year and get away from pool play.
Kirkland defeated the second-place team, Layritz Little League of Victoria B.C., during the first game of pool play. Kirkland swept all three pool-play games including a 3-1 win against Honaker Little League of Virginia (Southeast) and an 8-4 win against the Ecanaba Little League of Michigan (Central).