By JOHN McCALLUM
The state experience for the West Plains Little League Softball Majors (ages 11-12) All-Star team proved valuable but unfortunately short lived. After cruising to a 10-0 win in their first game the girls from Airway Heights, Cheney and Medical Lake exited competition for a trip to regional action with two straight losses, 10-0 to District 2 (Gig Harbor) and 11-1 to District 10 (Auburn/Kent).
Saturday in the opener with District 6 team Lewis River near Vancouver, Wash., West Plains used timely hitting to score three runs in the second, five in the third and two in the fourth en route to the win. Hailey Hostetter, Rachel Barsness, Laura Memea, Taylor Pavao, Taylor John, Alex Steinmetz, Meghan Krantz and Hanna Petek all had hits, with Memea throwing four innings of no-hit ball, striking out seven and walking two.
Tuesday West Plains ran up against a hitting machine in the squad from Gig Harbor, 15-2 winners over Auburn/Kent in Saturday's opener and 20-0 Sunday over District 7 (South Highline National). Cheevers led off the game with a single in the top of the first, but after that it was all Gig Harbor, capitalizing on West Plains' defensive miscues to turn a one-run game into a 7-0 lead with six runs in the third inning, scoring three in the fourth for the final margin.
Cheevers had West Plains' only hit as Gig Harbor pitcher Maddie Potter retired the next 12 batters, nine by strikeout while her offense banged out 10 hits.
West Plains drew first blood in the elimination game Wednesday against Auburn/Kent. In the top of the second Krantz reached on an error by the third baseman, stole second and eventually scored on another defensive mistake by Auburn/Kent.
But in the bottom of the inning three singles a pair of walks and a hit batter helped Auburn/Kent push five runs across the plate, adding three more in both the third and fourth innings for the win.
“Most days we would beat a team like D10 Auburn/Kent but we seemed to have left our bats in Spokane the last two games,” Pavao said in an email.
Petek and John each singled for West Plains' only hits. Petek took the loss, going four innings and giving up 11 runs on nine hits while striking out two and walking five.
The team from District 1, Mill Creek, eventually won the state title, losing to Gig Harbor 4-0 in the winner's bracket semifinals, but advancing to the title game via the loser's bracket with a 5-2 win over Auburn/Kent and then winning two straight in the rematch with District 2.
While the West Plains' squad most likely would have preferred to not have left when they did, Pavao felt it was a good trip overall.
“I am still very proud of these girls and the fact that they got to share in a great experience that most girls or boys never get to be a part of,” he said.
John McCallum can be reached at email@example.com.