Kirkland refueled and unleashed its firepower on the softball diamond.
After losing the day before, the locals rebounded with a 7-3 triumph over Canada (Victoria, British Columbia) on Sunday night in the Little League Softball World Series at Alpenrose Stadium in Portland, Oregon.
Kirkland (3-1), which finished second in Pool A, will take on Wheelersburg, Ohio (2-2), which finished third in Pool B, at 10 a.m. on Monday in the elimination quarterfinals. The game will be televised on ESPN2.
“I feel like we learned from our mistakes yesterday and we all fought really hard, battled through the whole game,” said Kya Aldrich, who went 4-for-4 and earned the complete-game win with nine strikeouts.
Added Ashlyn Cook about Saturday’s 12-2 defeat to the East: “That loss kind of pumped us up even more for this game.”
The locals bolted out to a 6-0 lead with three runs in the top of the fourth inning on RBI blasts by Bella Ely (double) and Aldrich (triple) and an RBI groundout from Hailey Story. Aldrich added her final single as Kirkland tacked on another run in the sixth.
Kirkland sent eight batters to the plate in the third inning and tallied three runs to take a 3-0 lead on a two-RBI, bases-loaded single by Cook, and Story scored on a wild pitch with the bases loaded. Story, Kaidence Caiola and Aldrich also singled during the at-bat.
“I was pumped up at that time because I knew that even a base hit was gonna score something and get this game going,” Cook said. “I was zoned in and I was looking for that pitch down the middle, ‘cause I know that this girl had been throwing it all night, so I was ready for it.”
“It was great, it just felt normal,” Aldrich said of busting out the early runs.
Canada cut Kirkland’s lead in half to 6-3 with three runs on four singles in the fourth inning.
Aldrich and Kirkland escaped a no-out jam in the first inning with two runners on with two strikeouts and a popout. Aldrich also fanned two in the second as Canada stranded a runner at third, and Canada left a pair of runners on base in the fifth and sixth. Aldrich reeled off 127 pitches.
Aldrich took a comebacker to the mound off her ankle bone during the game.
“When I got hit, it kind of made me fight harder. I felt like I was about to faint, but I really wanted that game. I feel like our whole team did great just fighting,” said Aldrich, who was icing the bone during this interview.
“We’re all icing our arms, our hamstrings, our feet, for Kya,” Cook said with a laugh.
Story, whose nickname is Hay Hay, said it’s nerve wracking playing in the World Series, but she’s thrilled to compete against teams from other states and countries and notch some wins.
“We have a lot of friends from other countries and we’ll hang out in the hallways,” she said.
Mental strength, Story noted, is one of the hallmarks of Kirkland’s success over the last three years, in which they’ve only lost four games.
The girls have become closer on and off the diamond during that journey across Washington, into California and now to Portland. It’s a sisterhood of the traveling softball squad.
“It’s really fun to get to hang out with your friends all the time,” Story said.
Front photo: Christina Minor makes a play at second as Bella Ely stands by. Courtesy of workmac-LLSWS