LL SB World Series: Rowan wins thriller, reaches championship game

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, August 14, 2019

By Mike London

PORTLAND, Ore. — Rowan Little League’s 12U softball all-stars survived extra innings on Tuesday, beating Oregon, 3-2, in a wild World Series semifinal with all sorts of drama.

Rowan scored twice in the top of the eighth after the game went to international rules (starting the inning with a runner at second base), and held Oregon to one run in the bottom of the inning. Second baseman Lauren Vanderpool charged a ground ball that skipped through the legs of relief pitcher Carmen Freeze and fired to first base for the final out.

“My heart was racing for those last few innings,” Rowan manager Steve Yang said. “That was way too close for me.”

Freeze was the winning pitcher for Rowan, getting six pressure-packed outs in the seventh and eighth to put Rowan in the championship game for the fourth time in five years. Rowan won it all in 2015 and was runner-up in 2016 and 2017. Rowan lost to Tennessee in regional play in 2018.

Rowan is 16-0 this summer and 6-0 in World Series play.

“We had the pressure on Oregon early, but we made some base-running errors that cost us a couple of runs, and then after that we just couldn’t get anything going for a long time,” Yang said. “Our girls got down for a while because things weren’t going their way and they had some growing up to do. But they picked it up and we got the job done against a heck of an Oregon team. Our girls showed a lot of determination.”

Most of the tense struggle was a pitching duel, as expected, between Rowan left-hander Campbell Schaen and Oregon southpaw Bridgette Boling.

Oregon scored in the second inning and would have gotten more had Rowan center fielder Kennedi Fisher not zipped a one-hop strike to the plate to catcher Emma Rae Cline to nail a runner. Cline was able to use her left leg to block the runner off the dish and made the tag. Oregon had four singles in the inning.

“Great defensive play by our girls,” Yang said.

Trailing for the first time in the World Series, Rowan quickly tied the game  at 1-all in the third when Schaen singled, headed to second on a wild pitch and came all the way home when Avrelle Harrell hit a fly ball to deep right field.

Rowan had several threats after that. Kynlee Dextraze and Ashley Yang rapped hits in the fourth, but Rowan failed to score. In the fifth, Schaen and Harrell had hits, but Rowan left runners at second and third.

Schaen, who struck out seven and walked one, kept it 1-all through the regulation six innings, battling around a lead-off double in the fifth and getting a strikeout to end the sixth with two more Oregon runners on base.

Heading to the seventh, both head coaches had difficult decisions to make. If their aces pitched a seventh inning, they wouldn’t be eligible to pitch in Wednesday’s championship game.

Both coaches came to the same conclusion. They turned to their bullpens, saving their aces for Wednesday.

Oregon’s Kailan Bordwell-Gray headed to the circle for the top of the seventh and got Rowan out 1-2-3.

“We were 50/50 on what do there, but Oregon had to make the move first, and they went to a reliever,” Coach Yang said. “So we decided to go the same route. We had faith in Carmen Freeze, and what a great job she did.”

Freeze took over pitching duties for Rowan in the bottom of the seventh. She walked two straight Oregon batters with one out, but then she got out of the jam with a strikeout and popup.

International rules came into play in the eighth. Rowan was fortunate that Vanderpool, a fast runner, had made the last out in the seventh. That made her the designated runner at second base. She scored a go-ahead run on a wild play. Schaen singled sharply to center to move Vanderpool to third and she was able to slide home after a hurried throw from the outfield got away. Schaen was able to advanced to second on the error and was able to score Rowan’s third run when Riley Haggas lifted a pop-fly single that fell just beyond the reach of the shortstop.

Freeze was able to make those runs hold up in the bottom of the eighth. She started the inning with a strikeout. After a run-scoring single by Gaby Bauer, Freeze calmly closed the game with a pair of groundouts.

Schaen had three of Rowan’s seven hits.

Rowan will play Louisiana or Italy in the championship game. Those teams were playing late on Tuesday night. Rowan beat Louisiana 7-0 in its first game in World Series pool play — that’s the game in which Schaen pitched a no-hitter . Rowan rolled 12-2 against Italy in pool play. Italy had a stunning victory over previously unbeaten Hawaii in Monday’s quarterfinals.

“It’s exciting to be back in the championship game — and I’m really excited for this group of girls” Coach Yang said. “Every one of them understands their role. All of them want to play, but all of them have put the team ahead of anything they do individually.”

Rowan      001  000  02   —   3    7    0

Oregon     010  000  01    —  2    8     4

W — Freeze. L — Kailan Bordwell-Gray.

Leading hitters — Rowan: Schaen 3-for-4, 2 runs; Harrell 1-for-2, RBI; Haggas 1-for-2, RBI; Yang 1-for-2. Oregon: Sierra McKenna 2-for-2; Kaiya Sukama 2-for-3, RBI.