There will be no repeat attempt at the Little League Softball World Series for McLean. After breezing through pool play, the McLean girls were stopped, 2-1, in the Regional Semifinals by eventual champion Morristown, Tenn.
The loss to the team from Tennessee was not the first hiccup for the team. In the State Tournament, the team battled for survival after dropping an early round game in the bracketed competition. After staving off elimination, McLean then beat the winners bracket champion twice in a row to claim the state crown for the sixth consecutive year.
The effects of the loss to Tennessee are more lasting however, as the semifinal loss derailed the prospect of a repeat title for McLean.
McLean mustered just three hits against Tennessee starting pitcher Kendi King, but took a 1-0 lead in the fourth inning when Jessie Straub pushed Mary Spulak across the plate. Tennessee answered in the bottom of the frame though, knotting the score on a hit by Sarah Collins and then Kenzie Mullins pushed across the game-winning run.
Those two runs, only one of them earned, would be the only ones allowed by McLean pitcher Jessica Eidt, but they would be all King would need to nail down the victory.
A win by Tennessee over Florida, the top seeded team from Pool B, in the final sent Tennessee to Portland, Ore. to represent the South in the Little League Softball World Series, beginning Aug. 10.
Prior to the season-ending loss, McLean dominated its opponents in the tournament’s pool play stage, outscoring its opponents 43-4 in three games to earn the top seed in Pool A. In their first game at the tournament, McLean blitzed its opponent from Simpsonville, S.C. for 15 runs, seven of them in the first two innings. Shortstop Mandy Moll was 2-for-4 at the plate with a pair of RBI and runs scored. Eidt, Straub and Jessie Falle also scored twice each, as Falle pitched four innings and struck out seven in the mercy rule-shortened game.
It was more of the same in a 13-1 victory over Phenix City, Ala. in McLean’s second game. McLean hung 10 runs on their opponent in the first inning and never looked back, with Allison Wilhem recording a career day. The McLean first baseman was 2-for-2 with four RBI and three runs scored, including a home run. Eidt helped her own cause with a pair of RBI, then struck out seven and allowed just one hit on the mound for McLean.
In the third and final game of pool play, McLean bested North Wilkesboro, N.C. 15-1 to head into the elimination round with a full head of steam. Wilhelm continued her hot hitting with a 3-for-4 day at the plate and three more RBI, though the game marked the first time an opposing team had successfully retired her at the Regional Tournament. Falle, Straub and Abby Peterson also added a pair of RBI each as Falle cruised to a four-inning victory on the mound, allowing just one run on three hits.