PORTLAND — Before Pendleton’s 10U Little League All-Star softball team hit the field on Tuesday to defend its state title, it knew one player stood in their way.
The South Beaverton Fury pitcher had just taken Pendleton down earlier in the week, hurling 17 strikeouts for a 10-1 victory in pool play. But the All-Stars knew what to expect from them on Tuesday, when they played the Fury once again in a championship contest in Portland.
The All-Stars would end up making a critical fourth-inning rally to take South Beaverton down 9-7, successfully defending its 10U state title on Tuesday.
“She’s probably the fastest pitcher we’ve faced so far this season,” Pendleton coach Jason VanNice said of Ashbrook. “She dominated. They were a little intimidated by (Ashbrook). We knew we’d have to face her again if we made the finals. We had to come out fired up.”
And they did just that.
Katelyn Boatman and Kelsi Primus got Pendleton on the board with RBI singles in the top of the first.
“Those singles really helped our dugout realize that we had a shot against this team if we came out ready to play,” VanNice said.
South Beaverton returned to knot the score at 4-4 in the bottom of the third with a three-RBI single, but Pendleton wouldn’t stay down for long.
In the top of the fourth, Brianna Medrano sent a 2-2 pitch towards second base, driving in a pair of runs. Primus followed with her game’s second RBI single, and scored on a wild pitch two at-bats later. The comeback put the All-Stars up 8-4.
“(South Beaverton) played as expected — we just eliminated our mistakes,” VanNice said. “They were ready for us. We came out a little more aggressive. We were good at getting runners on base, and when we do that, we cause problems for the other team. That’s what ultimately got us the win.”
By the sixth inning, South Beaverton had threatened another tie, bringing the score up to 8-7. But Alanah Eagleheart kept Pendleton out front with a hard line drive into center field, good enough for a double and an RBI.
Eagleheart struck out two batters in the bottom of the inning, and a groundout kept South Beaverton away from home, earning Pendleton their second consecutive state title.
Despite the loss, Ashbrook still managed to strike out 13 Pendleton All-Stars by the game’s end, but she gave Pendleton nine of their runs. McKinley Lieuallen and Eagleheart combined for 10 strikeouts.
“Our pitching was excellent,” VanNice said. “They just kept throwing strikes, and their defense was right there behind them to help.”
Cambria VanNice, Medrano, and Primus each scored two runs to lead Pendleton to the state title.
“It was a total team effort,” coach VanNice said. “Everyone contributed. This paves the way for them when they get older. They’ll make a run at the 12U state title when it’s their turn. The future is bright for these young girls.”