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Italy steals one from Kirkland to eliminate host team from Junior Softball World Series
The team representing Europe-Africa, Italy, defeated Kirkland 2-1 on Thursday at Everest Park despite a dominant pitching performance from host team pitcher Tori Bivens. The loss eliminates Kirkland from the championship tournament.
"All of our girls were hitting the ball but they were hit right at people," Kirkland coach Greg Anthis said. "It's tough but that is how it goes sometimes."
Kirkland got on the scoreboard first with a run during the third inning. Catcher Abby Anthis performed well behind the plate and while standing over it. She started the rally during the third inning with a base hit to left field, advanced to third on a passed ball and then stole third. Bivens then hit the ball to right field to score Abby Anthis from third to take the 1-0 lead. Abby Anthis finished the game 2-for-3.
It looked like that might be all the host team would need, as Bivens cruised through the bottom of the inning by striking out the side. Bivens would finish the game with 15 strikeouts, giving up just two hits and one earned run.
But a leadoff double during the fourth inning for Italy spelled trouble for Kirkland. A sacrifice then pushed the runner to third. Bivens would walk the next batter. As the Italian player approached first base she took a big chance and went for second. Bivens, preparing for the next batter, paused looked at the stands and then threw the ball to second base. Her throw to second allowed the runner on third to steal home and tie the game, 1-1.
"Tori was just really focused and I think the play just caught her off guard," Gerg Anthis said.
The play of the game for Kirkland took place during the bottom of the fifth as an Italian player squared around to bunt. The inside fastball was popped straight up and Abby Anthis dove from her catching position, laying straight out to catch the ball.
"I just knew I would have to sacrifice myself for the ball and that is what I did," Abby Anthis said.
The teams would stay scoreless during the next two innings. But the bottom of the sixth would prove definitive for both teams.
The first batter of the inning for Italy drew one of just two walks issued by Bivens during the game. A steal of second and an error on defense pushed the runner to third base, where she would later score on a fielder's choice.
Kirland was aggressive during the final half inning of the game, just like they played the previous four games. The batters went dow swinging with three strikeouts.
Although the host team did not reach the finals as they did last year, their 2-2 record in pool play and two one-run losses showed great improvement for a very young team according to the coaches.
"There is always a chance we could be back next year," Greg Anthis said. "You never know what kids are going to come up through the ranks."
One player that wont be on the team is Bivens, who finished the five games played this year with 58 strikeouts.
In other games on Thursday, the East U.S. team defeated Canada, 11-1, Latin America beat the Southeast U.S. team, 12-2, and the West U.S. team beat Central U.S. team, 4-2.
The tournament continues today with the semifinal games.
The championship final will be played on Saturday at 2 p.m. at Everest Park and will also be broadcast live on ESPN News.
Kirkland player Kayla Henry is thrown out at second base during the Junior Softball World Series. Matt Phelps/Kirkland Reporter