Little League World Series: Rowan settles for runner-up to Texas

Published 12:19 am Thursday, August 17, 2017

By Mike London

The beginning turned out to be the end for Rowan Little League in the 12U softball World Series.

Competing in the championship game for the third straight summer at Alpenrose Stadium in Portland, Ore., Rowan missed a chance to jump on Texas in the top of the first, and then saw the champions from Lake Air Little League in Waco, take control with three runs in the bottom of the inning.

Struggling early in the circle and with some errant throws, Rowan’s deficit ballooned to 7-1 after two innings.  Texas cruised to a relatively routine 7-2 victory that lacked the drama of Rowan’s tense wins against Delaware and Indiana earlier in the tournament.

Rowan finished as national runner-up for the second straight year. In the 2016 final, Rowan lost, 5-1, to another Texas team, Greater Helotes Little League from San Antonio.

Rowan won the 2015 World Series, beating Rhode Island’s Warwick North Little League, 3-2, in the title game.

Things couldn’t have started any better for Rowan on Wednesday night. Kenadi Sproul opened the game with an infield hit, and when Emma Clarke punched a ball through the right side, Rowan had runners at first and third with none out. Brooke Kennerly smashed a pitch up around her shoulders to left field to score Sproul, and Rowan had a 1-0 lead and was knocking on the door for a lot more.

Cleanup hitter Allie Burns hit a ball well, but right at Texas third baseman Asharah Thompson, who made the catch and fired to second to double off Clarke. That was the last time Rowan had any momentum.

Karsen Simpson, pinch-running at first base, stole second, but was thrown out at third for the final out of the inning when she tried to advance on the off-target throw to second.

Texas’ three-run first followed. Rowan starting pitcher Madelyn VonCanon faced only three batters — single, walk, single, with two wild pitches and a throwing error tossed into the mix. Kendall Robinson relieved with Rowan down, 2-1, and a two-out single by Ulissa Rivas put Texas up, 3-1.

Lilli Heard drove a ball to deep right-center in the top of the second, but center fielder Makayla Ramos ran it down and made the play.

Then Texas got four runs in the bottom of the second, knocking out Robinson. Rowan was using its third pitcher, Karsen Simpson, with one out in the bottom of the second. Simpson pitched effectively the rest of the way, but the damage was done. In 3 2/3 innings, Simpson allowed three hits and one run and struck out two.

After her teammates staked her to that 7-1 lead, the rest of the night belonged to Texas pitcher Daniella Ramirez, who went 7-0 in the tournament and walked only eight batters in 39 innings.

Ramirez allowed only two Rowan hits after the first inning. She struck out only one batter, but her teammates made good plays behind her, and Rowan wasn’t very lucky. Madelyn VonCanon’s vicious liner to start the fourth inning went right at Thibodeaux.

Still down, 7-1, in the sixth, Rowan showed more patience at the plate, and Kenadi Sproul led off  the inning by accepting the only walk that Ramirez issued. Clarke also reached base when Thibodeaux, after fielding her ground ball, fired wildly trying to force Sproul at second base. Sproul sprinted on to third base on the play. Sproul then scored Rowan’s second run when Kennerly drove a sacrifice fly deep to center field.

Texas gladly exchanged the run for the first out in the sixth, and when Burns whacked the first pitch she saw right at the shortstop, a step from the bag, Texas had an easy, game-ending and World Series-ending  double play.

Sproul went 12-for-20 with 14 runs scored in the tournament. Clarke was 11-for-20 with 11 runs. VonCanon was 11-for-17 and drove in 10 runs.

Rowan, coached by Johnny Meadows, Elizabeth Clarke and Brandon Piper, went 6-1 in the World Series and accepted second-place medals.  Rowan will try to make it back to Alpenrose again next summer.

Rowan  100   001    — 2    5    2

Texas   340   00x    — 7    9    1