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Kirkland host team qualifies for championship bracket of World Series
The Kirkland host team for the Junior Softball World Series at Everest Park lost a heartbreaking game on Tuesday, 2-1, in nine innings.
But the loss came on the heels of a great start for the team from Kirkland, as they finished pool play 2-2 and qualified for the championship tournament.
The team’s start is a good sign for a young squad led by just two players with previous World Series experience.
“This is a very young and very green team,” Kirkland coach Steve Bivens said. “If you talk to anyone at the tournament they all say that the team’s improvement is extraordinary.”
Kirkland defeated Canada 8-4 during its first game of pool play on Sunday.
The final game of the opening day of play saw no lead changes but a tense bottom of the third inning as Kirkland nearly gave up a five-run lead.
The host team began the game by slapping the ball around for two big first-inning runs. Emma Pruss picked up two RBIs with a single to center field.
Kirkland extended the lead with three runs during the top of the third. A double by Anastasia Kotsakis scored Tori Bivens. Then, a Mya Schaaf single scored Kotsakis and Pruss.
But Canada came back strong with four runs of its own during the bottom of the inning to cut the lead to just one run, 5-4.
Kirkland put the game out of reach with an unearned run and a sacrifice fly by Bivens during the fourth inning. The host team would push the lead back to four runs as Olivia Rudolph singled home Pruss during the fifth inning.
Bivens slammed the door on Canada from the pitching circle with three strong innings to complete the victory for the host team. It was the second loss on the day for Canada, which lost to Central to open play, 7-6.
The host team survived its second game of pool play Monday, defeating the Philippines representing the Asia-Pacific region, 7-4.
Bivens threw a complete game and struck out nine but also came up big at the plate, going 2-for-4 with two RBI and a run scored. Kotsakis was also 2-for-4 with two RBI during the contest.
The game looked like it would be a complete pitchers’ duel with the teams going scoreless through the four innings, as the squads combined for just four hits.
Kirkland took control during the top of the fifth inning with three runs. A fielder’s choice resulted in the first run of the game for the host team and a Bivens base hit to left field to score Rudolph from third.
A Kotsakis single scored Abby Anthis on a close play at home. The throw from the outfielder struck Anthis on the elbow just before she crossed the plate.
But just as fast as Kirkland took the lead, the Asia-Pacific team tied it at 3-3 during the bottom of the inning.
The scoring continued as Kirkland took the lead back on a Lindsay Allen fielder’s choice RBI. But once again the pendulum swung back to Asia-Pacific, as the Philippines tied the game for a third time on an RBI triple.
The seventh inning would prove definitive for Kirkland. A Bivens double scoring Anthis gave the host team a 5-4 lead. Kotsakis singled to centerfield scoring Bivens and then Taylor Sheldon’s fielder’s choice put the seventh and final run on the board for Kirkland.
The offensive output the team experienced during the first two contests was not expected to be its strength.
“I am pleasantly surprised,” Steve Bivens said. “Offense is contagious. We have had some great clutch hitting and when things happen to us, we are able to stop the bleeding.”
Kirkland lost its third game of the World Series to the Southeast team 1-0 on Tuesday morning.
The Southeast team was led by starting pitcher Nicole Rodriguez, who raked up 18 strikeouts, gave up just one hit and no walks.
The only runner to cross home plate started out as a walk. But that runner eventually came around to score on a passed ball.
Bivens also threw well, collecting 13 strikeouts and also only giving up one hit. Bivens was the only Kirkland player to reach base on a hit.
The Kirkland team is attempting to reach the finals of the tournament as they did last year when they became just the second host team to reach the championship game.
“It is just a matter of us taking advantage of opportunities,” Steve Bivens said.
The finals will be played on tomorrow at Everest Park and broadcast on ESPN News.