Stilly Valley all-stars' dream season ends at regionals

As Jessica Ludwig slides into home in the third inning of Washington’s game against Montana, the catcher and the umpire are there to greet her but the ball is not, bouncing past the catcher. At Fort Vancouver Stilly Valley 0 0 1 0 0 0 1 Montana 1 0 0 1 1 x 3 - DANIELLE SZULCZEWSKI Sports Reporter
As Jessica Ludwig slides into home in the third inning of Washington’s game against Montana, the catcher and the umpire are there to greet her but the ball is not, bouncing past the catcher. At Fort Vancouver Stilly Valley 0 0 1 0 0 0 1 Montana 1 0 0 1 1 x 3
— image credit: DANIELLE SZULCZEWSKI Sports Reporter

VANCOUVER By the end of Stilly Valley all-stars' run as Team Washington, manager Brian Fields had little left to say.

Until the very last out, Stilly Valley had been competitive in three out of their four contests. But unlike the district and state tournaments, this time luck just was not on their side. The girls lost their first two games, each by one run. The second game against Team Alaska had even gone into extra innings.

"The first two games took the wind out of the girls' sails," Fields said. "If we had gotten one of those games, it might have been a different tournament."

Although Stilly Valley and each of the other state tournament winners were guaranteed four games in the regional tournament's pool play, back-to-back losses in the first two games virtually ended the Arlington-area team's hopes of qualifying for the semifinal contests that would qualify the girls for the Little League World Series.

Stilly Valley played their regional tournament opener July 27 against Team Oregon. A tough hitting opponent, Oregon was struck out only once. While the team hits were about even on each side Stilly Valley with three, Oregon with four Oregon had a large number of outs from fielder's choices and eventually one of their runners crossed home plate, in the bottom of the sixth inning, on a single. With Little League competition a six-inning contest, Stilly Valley never got a chance to respond.

Given the chance to rally, the girls showed they could do it, coming back from a four-run deficit in their second game against Alaska to tie up and force extra innings.

Hayley Fields pitched for Team Washington in the girls' second regional game July 28 and had a double in the third inning. Stilly took a brief one-run lead there with hits from Savannah Diemer and Amy Revelle, before Alaska scored four runs in the bottom of the third to take the lead. They added a fifth run in the fifth inning before the girls made their comeback.

Revelle had a second hit while Katelynn Kazen and Jessica Ludwig added RBIs. But the girls were only able to tie the game 5-5, forcing a seventh inning. Stilly Valley was held scoreless in the top of the seventh, but Alaska was not, winning 6-5.

A demoralized Team Washington faced in-state rival, host team Columbia Little League the next day. Stilly Valley scored off a first-inning walk by Ludwig, but that lead was short-lived as the girls gave up six unearned runs in the bottom of the first inning. Columbia took a 7-1 lead and added to it, winning the third game by a final 8-3 margin.

With a day off, Stilly Valley faced Team Montana in their final game July 31 at Fort Vancouver.

After pitching the opener against Oregon, Kaylyn Myers took the mound again for Washington. Montana took a one-run lead in the first inning, scoring on a successful squeeze play with two outs. Washington responded as Hayley Fields hit an RBI double in the top of the third to knock in Ludwig.

Stilly Valley put two girls on base in the top of the fourth but couldn't convert. The girls held on defensively in the bottom of the inning for two outs and appeared to have the third on a long toss from third baseman Fields to Katelyn McDonald at first, but the runner was called safe and Montana loaded the bases. A walk gave Montana a 2-1 lead before Stilly closed out the inning on a fly catch to shortstop Syvannah Cram.

The girls from the Big Sky country added another run in the fifth on a sacrifice fly, forcing Washington into a do-or-die situation in the top of six.

Kayla Mashburn got on base on a single and with two outs, Cram walked. The girls advanced to second and third base while pitcher Myers was up to bat with the chance to close the gap.

Stilly Valley went down swinging.

Myers hit the ball toward right field, but it ended in the glove of the Montana first baseman.

The girls' dream season was over.

With the end of their run, the Stilly Valley girls dutifully lined up on the first base line as officials called their names and the girls were awarded pins and medals for qualifying for the regional.

As far as they had come, it seemed even harder to lose at the regional than it would have earlier in the all-star calendar.

But coach Fields said the team had no regrets.

"It was a fun tournament and we were glad to be here," he said. "The kids battled and we'll be back here again next year."

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