Bivens guides young team as Kirkland hosts Junior Softball World Series

The host team from Kirkland for the Junior Softball World Series finished second last year.  - Reporter file photo
The host team from Kirkland for the Junior Softball World Series finished second last year.
— image credit: Reporter file photo

Tori Bivens knows a lot about pitching in pressure situations. She pitched the Kangs to the state title during the spring as a freshman with the Lake Washington High School softball team. During the past two years she has helped the Kirkland Little League team from District 9 qualify to host the Junior Softball World Series (JSWS). She even fueled the host to a record-tying spot in the finals during the 2013 tournament. This year, she hopes to win it all and make more history as one of just two veterans on a young team.

“We have a lot of experienced girls on my high school team but this team is a little different,” Bivens said.

Bivens and teammate Kayla Henry are the only two returning players.

“I am not sure they really know what they are getting into,” Bivens said. “I do feel a little more pressure this year. The team is really depending on me. I have to hit my spots with every pitch. But it is a challenge I am willing to accept.”

The JSWS will be played at Everest Park in Kirkland Aug. 10-16, with the finals being broadcast live on ESPN News on Saturday and then rebroadcast on ESPN 2 the following Tuesday. Last year the tournament brought approximately 6,600 people to Kirkland.

This is the 16th year that Kirkland has hosted the event and John Chadwick has been a fixture for each one as tournament director.

“This is a year-round thing,” Chadwick said. “We have to put together advertising, get uniforms, souvenirs, supplies, financing and coordinate with Little League, Inc. … You should see my garage.”

Chadwick works with a committee of about 30 people to organize the event each year.

“We have a lot of dedicated people,” Chadwick said. “We have people on our committee who still correspond with former players who were here 10 and 12 years ago.”

The JSWS plays host to 10 teams of 13-14 year old girls from around the world each year. This year the tournament will feature teams from the Philippines, Italy, Mexico, Fort Meyers, Fla. and Victoria, BC. Some of the teams have not yet finished regional tournaments to qualify.

There are some big differences between the host team and other squads competing in the tournament. Each visiting team has to win a state tournament and/or a regional tournament to qualify. Those teams represent a larger area than the host team, such as the southeast United States, Europe or Asia. The host team has to win a local tournament to compete in the tournament.

Bivens said that the prospect of playing against the best players in the world and getting a shot at competing on ESPN again is worth coming back for her third and final year of eligibility.

“This is a huge deal,” Bivens said. “I just want to be a part of it. I am never going to get this chance again.”

Bivens said that with the youth movement and her experience she feels like she can help coach many of the young players.

“If we won the Junior Softball World Series it would be like winning five state titles,” Bivens said.

The JSWS host team only has one official responsibility, to host the “girls night out” on Aug. 11. But the host players and coaches go above and beyond what is required.

“We build gift baskets for the other players and to see the expression on their face makes it all worth it,” Bivens said.

But Chadwick has a saying for the host team: “It’s our job to make sure they have fun, it is their job to win.”

And with Bivens on the mound, the host team will have a shot at history.

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