Kirkland’s District 9 champion squad that will compete in the Junior Softball World Series. Left to right: Haley Brown, Maddy Miller, Ashley Allen, Claire Towey, Mackenzie Burke, Amy Chen, Anna Fridell, Antonia Norman, Kaci Gordon, Kaia Bradford, Lilly Bean, Ruby Olmstead, Abbie Reynolds and Maliena Carelli. Courtesy photo

Kirkland host team ready to step up to the plate at Junior Softball World Series

Local players are set for some serious softball action.

Come Sunday, the Kirkland District 9 champs — a combined Kirkland American/Kirkland National All-Star team — will hit the diamond in the 2017 Junior Softball World Series at Everest Park in Kirkland. The tourney will run through Aug. 5.

According to the City of Kirkland, this year the Tourism Development Committee granted $9,000 in Lodging Tax Advisory Committee funding to support the event, which draws a plethora of visitors from around the world to town.

Admission and parking are free, and around 6,000 people are expected to attend the tournament, according to director John Chadwick.

Chadwick has been the director since the tourney’s inception in 1999. It has always been played at Everest, which has four fields — two for games at the tourney and two for practices during the event.

Kirkland Mayor Amy Walen noted that the tournament puts the city at center stage, and people all over the world follow the games and many attend the event to support their teams.

“It’s a great opportunity for visitors to experience both the inclusiveness of our community as well as the care we put into our parks and green spaces. These visitors also stay, shop and explore Kirkland, which really benefits our local businesses,” she said.

Ten teams will be participating in the tournament, which is split into two pools. Pool play begins on Sunday and the final will take place at noon on Aug. 5. ESPN will televise the championship game.

The pools are:

Pool A: Asia-Pacific, Canada, USA Central, Host and USA Southeast

Pool B: USA East, Europe-Africa, Latin America, USA Southwest and USA West

Latin America will take on Europe-Africa in the opening game at 8:45 a.m. Sunday. WA District 9 will play its first game against Canada at 5:45 p.m. Sunday.

According to Chadwick, each team will play four pool games and the top four squads from each pool will advance to the next portion of the tourney. There will be 31 games played overall.

Kirkland player Amy Chen thinks her team is physically and mentally prepared for the tournament and she’s excited to see how they’ll perform.

“Of course our goal is to win the World Series, but we have to think of winning one game at a time, and not be overconfident going into it,” said Chen. “We know that if we want to make it to the championships, we must work as a team and communicate well with each other, which is why we had several activities and opportunities for us to get closer as a team and bond with one another.”

Kirkland pitcher Antonia Norman said in a previous Reporter story: “I trust my team 100 percent. We’ve been playing together, a lot of us since we were very, very little and I think that’s really added to the team chemistry.”

Host team manager Mikal Norman (Antonia’s dad) — who is joined by coaches John Allen and Shane Reynolds — said his team has been practicing twice a week for the last month and got in a good scrimmage last week. His players have also been competing with their select squads throughout July.

Mikal said the girls are focused heading into the tourney: “We’re ramping it up. You show up and play your A game. Do that and we’ll be fine.”

Games don’t start until Sunday, but the players will be at Everest on Saturday to receive their uniforms and see the other teams for the first time.

Mikal said they’ll “take a deep breath, (and say) ‘it’s time to get serious, time to play.’”

For the last month, Kirkland parks and recreation department employees have been grooming the fields.

“(They’re) doing the fantastic job they normally do. They’re gonna get (the fields) into A1 shape,” Chadwick said.

As for the ESPN side of the scenario, Chadwick said the channel’s equipment truck will roll into Everest on Aug. 3 or 4 and set up shop. There will be cameras and a high rise to shoot the action. Come championship game time, the spotlight will be on the top two squads competing in Kirkland.

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