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Little League World Series: Rowan wins it all

By Mike London

mike.london@salisburypost.com

Rowan first baseman Kary Hales dropped the end of the world champions banner she was holding for a moment because she needed that hand to wipe away tears of joy and relief that were streaming from her eyes.
It was an emotional night in Portland, Ore.
Hales, Rowan’s first baseman, snagged a line drive to end Wednesday’s Little League Softball World Series championship game, and with that catch, she triggered the last delirious dog pile of an unforgettable summer.
Rowan Little League is officially the best in the world after beating East regional champ Rhode Island, 4-2.
“When it all will sink in, I don’t know,” coach Steve Yang said. “It’s still got a surreal feel to it, but it’s like we told the girls, they’re not just the best in Salisbury or the best in North Carolina or the best in the Southeast. And they’re not just the best in the USA. They’re the best team in the whole world. Not many people will ever be able to say something like that, but 13 very special girls from Rowan and Iredell counties can say it.”
Rowan (17-1) went 5-1 in the tournament and outscored opponents, 43-6.
“There always are going to be some people who say we coasted through our bracket,” Yang said. “I guess now they can say we coasted to the championship if they want to. All I know is we beat a really good Rhode Island team tonight, and we’re the champions.”
It was a tough game, even after Rowan scored four runs in the first inning.
Allison Ennis started the game with a hit. After Hales lined out, Caitlin Mann walked and Taylor Walton was struck by a pitch to load the bases for Ellen Yang, the coach’s daughter.
Yang’s single to right field plated Ennis and pinch-runner Liza Simmerson, and Taylor Walton scored all the way from first on an overthrow for a 3-0 lead.
“Ellen had been struggling a little bit, so that hit lifted her spirits,” Coach Yang said. “She had a really good game. She had a strong defensive game.”
Next, winning pitcher Kali Morton doubled off the center field wall to score Yang for a 4-0 lead.
“They changed pitchers after that to a girl who threw slower, but she had a very good change up,” Coach Yang said. “We did hit a few balls hard, but we couldn’t get anything going offensively the rest of the game. We just relied on our pitcher and our defense and we held on for dear life. We survived.”
Rhode Island got a run back in the third inning on a dropped fly ball and manufactured a run in the fourth following a bunt single.
But Rowan’s defense was up to the challenge. Ennis, the shortstop, stayed down on a hard grounder like a big leaguer and got a key force out at third. Yang, the third baseman, executed on a difficult, backhand play stab of liner that could have gone down the line for a double.
Mostly, Rowan relied on Morton, who has been brilliant all summer.
“All 13 of the girls on the team were important and they all are good, but some girls will always stand out a little bit, and Kali was that standout for us,” Coach Yang said. “The pitcher dictates the game on that small softball field, and we kind of hopped on Kali’s back and rode her. She’s just a very special player and a very special girl.”
Morton wasn’t overpowering, but she was efficient. She struck out three, walked one and allowed four hits.
Ennis was the offensive standout. She accounted for half of Rowan’s six hits. Yang went 2-for-2.
Eight of the 13 Rowan girls played on last year’s 9-10 age team that won the Southeast Regional championship in Tennessee, so it’s a very youthful team to be winning the world championship for ages 11 and 12.
Rowan received all kinds of hardware at Wednesday night’s closing ceremonies, including a plaque, a banner, individual medals and pins, and even diplomas certifying that they are champions.
The girls are starting to get a little homesick, but when they report to school on Monday, they’ll have unique “What I did on my summer vacation” essays to write.
Coach Yang, a Salisbury dentist, also will have a few interesting anecdotes for his patients.
Yang said they’ll be on a bus to the airport very early this morning and they’re scheduled to arrive back in Charlotte, after a long day of flying, at 7:15 p.m.
“I’m just thankful,” Coach Yang said. “Thirteen very special girls took their parents and their coaches on the journey of a lifetime.”

Rowan 400 000 — 4 6 1
Rhode Island 001 100 — 2 4 2

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