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Stilly juniors win battle in softball saga
ARLINGTON Marysville and Stilly Valley Little League wrote another page in the story of their rivalry as the girls juniors teams clashed with their tournament survival on the line.
In a battle worthy of their history, each team fought tooth and nail for six innings before Stilly Valley finally pulled away to win 9-5. The victory on a breezy July 9 afternoon secured Stilly Valley a meeting with Mukilteo in the tournament's championship game.
Stilly Valley took an early lead in the bottom of the first, batting deep into their lineup and emerging with a 3-0 lead. Marysville answered with two runs of their own in the top of second and kept within a run of their rivals through the fourth inning thanks to strong defensive play, including a long pass from center fielder Sarah Newland to pitcher Jai Wright, who flipped the ball to Lexi Schrader at home to stop Stilly Valley's Alison Hammond at home for the third out.
Marysville seized the momentum of the defensive stand in the fifth inning when a single by second baseman Sam Leahy batted in Schrader and Laura Ramos for a brief 5-4 lead. Stilly tied it up again in the bottom of the fifth when pitcher Kristin Backstrom was batted in first baseman Kori Bowns' second double of the game, setting up a sixth-inning showdown.
Stilly Valley proved worthy of the win by holding Marysville to three up, three out in the top of the sixth and landing the bats they needed to in the bottom of six.
Brittany Bovard, who batted 3-for-3 against Marysville, started Stilly off with a single and four batters later, the bases were loaded. Stilly was walked in on what would prove to be the game-winning run and added RBIs from their next three batters.
Stilly Valley manager Allen Backstrom credited his team's evolution through the tournament for their success. Unlike younger Little League all-star squads that draw from multiple teams, the Stilly Valley juniors are essentially the same group of girls that played for the juniors during the regular season. Backstrom's girls saw a lot of the same teams in the tournament that they had faced during the regular season and improved to beat teams that had won in the first meeting.
"Marysville is a really tough team, but a highlight for me was beating Pacific, who had a one-loss regular season," he said, adding, "I haven't coached a team that's just happy to play the way this team has."
Having handed the Pacific girls their first loss in the double-elimination tournament, Marysville manager Jeff Plant also counted his team's meeting with the Edmonds-area dynamos as a jewel in their crown. He added that he was proud of how his team played in both their wins and losses.
"Our girls showed a lot of character," he said.