Little League Softball World Series: Rowan wins second title in four years

Published 1:23 am Thursday, August 15, 2019

By Mike London

PORTLAND, Ore. — With a lot of people watching on ESPN, Rowan Little League held on to beat Louisiana, 4-1, late Wednesday night, and now both Yang sisters own a world championship.

An emotional Ellen Yang, one of the girls who won the 2015 Little League World Series title with her Rowan teammates, watched from the stands as little sister Ashley Yang contributed to a second title for the perennially successful program.

Both World Series winners were managed by the girls’ father — Salisbury dentist Steve Yang.

“It’s all surreal right now, and I’m feeling a lot of joy and excitement for all our players and families,” Coach Yang said. “This is an unbelievable feeling. People have always known Ashley as Ellen’s sister. Now everyone is joking that Ellen is going to be known as Ashley’s sister.”

Rowan’s left-handed ace Campbell Schaen dominated the World Series, but she had to dig deep and battle on most of the 111 pitches she unleashed against the girls from Eastbank Little League in River Ridge,  La., a  town in the New Orleans suburbs.

“They’ve got good coaches and they made some adjustments to Campbell’s pitching style after she pitched a no-hitter against them in pool play,” Coach Yang said. “They had a lot of runners on base tonight, had scoring threats in four innings, but she always got the key outs and our defense was rock-solid behind her, just as it was throughout the series.”

Schaen allowed seven hits, walked two and hit two against the Southwest Region champs, but she persevered. She struck out nine, and while she was in trouble several times, she never lost her poise and never lost sight of her mission.

During the World Series, Schaen struck out 49, while walking four. She had an o.42 ERA, allowing two earned runs in 33 innings.

While this was Rowan’s fourth trip to the World Series in the past five seasons, this was the first time Rowan has enjoyed a perfect summer. Rowan went 17-0, including 7-0 in World Series play.

Rowan lost a game in pool play when it won the title in 2015. Rowan was runner-up in the World Series to Texas teams representing the Southwest Region in 2016 and 2017.

“I really think we overachieved,” Coach Yang said. “Not many thought we could win the Southeast Regional with this group and not many people thought we could even come close out here, but the girls did it. This is all about them. They just never stopped battling.”

Rowan led all the way after striking for three runs in the bottom of the first inning. Lead-off batter Lauren Vanderpool sent a sharp single whistling into center field and stole second. When Schaen produced an infield hit and Avrelle Harrell was struck by a pitch that bounced,  Rowan had the bases loaded with none out.

Cleanup batter Riley Haggas followed with the key blow of the game on a 2-and-0 pitch. She belted a soaring drive to the fence in right-center that scored two runs.

“Well, I haven’t been hitting great, so it did feel good to hit a ball hard to the opposite field like that,” Haggas said. “I was trying to get those runners in. It just felt good off the bat.”

“Riley has been struggling a little bit, but she squared up three balls today,” Coach Yang added. “She came through with a hit that was just huge. That hit got us going. I’ve been joking with her that she finally got her swing right, and now the summer is over.”

Yang’s bunt toward the circle got another run home from third for a 3-0 lead.

Kennedi Fisher manufactured a run in the second inning with her speed, making it 4-0. She walked, stole second, advanced to third on Vanderpool’s groundout and raced home on a wild pitch.

Schaen ran into the most serious adversity she faced in the top of the third when Louisiana loaded the bases with none out on a walk and two singles.

“I knew I had to keep the ball down, and if I did, our defense would have my back,” Schaen said. “I had some pitches that were working well — the inside fastball, the screwball, the riseball.”

Schaen lost her shutout on a grounder to second base, but Vanderpool wisely took the sure out at first base. Rowan got the second out at the plate on a ground ball to third baseman Cadence Lane. She came home with the throw with no hesitation, and catcher Emma Rae Cline made the tag.

“I could see out of the corner of my eye where the runner was, and I knew we had her,” Schaen said. “I wasn’t worried.”

Then Schaen got a strikeout to finish the inning and limit the damage to a single run.

“To get out of that inning with just one run scoring, that was a great job by everyone, the turning point in the game,” Coach Yang said.

Louisiana reliever Kayla Giardina was tenacious.  Rowan didn’t get a hit after the first inning, but Schaen and a defense that turned five grounders into outs, maintained the lead.

Louisiana had a runner at third base in the sixth inning when Rowan secured the final out. Shortstop Kynlee Dextraze fielded a hot grounder and fired a strike to first baseman Haggas. The runner was out by a step, and Rowan had won its second world championship.

“Losing in the regional last year was heart-breaking for me,” Schaen said. “Right now I’m proud of myself and proud of my teammates for winning this year. This made everything worthwhile.”

The World Champs will fly in to Charlotte Thursday night. A fire truck escort is planned for their trip through downtown Salisbury, and they’ll wind up at West End Plaza just as they did when the program won it all four years ago.

“These are 14 amazing girls,” Coach Yang said. “They’ve got to get back to school now, but they did something remarkable with their summer. They’ll go back to school as rock stars.”


NOTES: Rowan’s Mooresville contingent — Schaen, Vanderpool, Harrell and Lane — was instrumental in the victory.

Louisiana    001  000  — 1    7    2

Rowan         310   00x   — 4   3   1

W — Schaen. L — Hailey Peterson.

Leading hitters — Louisiana: Giardina 2-for-3, RBI. Peterson 2-for-4. Rowan: Haggas 1-for-2, 2 RBIs: Vanderpool 1-for-3; Schaen 1-for-3.