The La Grande 9-10-year-old softball team poses with the state championship banner after defeating Klamath Falls 10-0 in the state title game July 16 in Scappoose. (Courtesy photo)
La Grande’s 9-10-year-old Little League softball team has a run that will be remembered for years
SCAPPOOSE — For 11 La Grande Little Leaguers and their three coaches, 2013 will be a year they won’t soon forget.
The 9-10-year-old all-star softball team not only won La Grande’s first ever state title for that age group, but it dismantled the competition en route to the championship.
“This is just a special group of girls,” manager Brian Wiggins said after the championship game against Klamath Falls.
The group of girls were selected for the all-star team after the Little League regular season. Players were brought in to practice and were evaluated by coaches.
But, as Wiggins said, the real tryout had already happened.
“The real tryout was the whole season,” said Wiggins, who was an assistant coach for Blue Mountain Embroidery. “If you were a coach, you had seen them play all year.”
After selecting the 11 best players, Wiggins, along with coaches Mike Brock and Shane Kirkland from Martinez Orthodontist, were picked to head the team.
Then started the two weeks of practice in preparation for the district tournament.
“Some of the players we knew, some we didn’t,” Wiggins said. “We had two to three days of evaluation. Some players played the same position they did all year, and others changed positions for the team’s need.”
Wiggins said he and his coaches were confident in his team heading to John Day for the district tournament.
“We felt good. We definitely knew we had two pitchers who were excellent. Our hitting started slow at districts, but by the end, the players got the confidence and knew they could compete with anyone.”
La Grande went 3-0 at the district tournament, outscoring its opponents 22-0.
Allie Brock had 26 strikeouts and allowed one hit in two starts. Jaiden Hafer pitched a no-hitter and struck out 11 in the semifinals.
The district title earned the team a trip to Scappoose for the state tournament.
And that’s where the team was so dominant that opposing coaches and umpires were telling Wiggins how good his team looked.
La Grande went 6-0 and outscored opponents 72-2. Willamette was the only team to score a run on
“We had dominant pitching,” Wiggins said. “But our hitting was getting going. We were scoring 10, 12 runs a game. We were scoring more than anyone else there. Our hitting was contagious.”
Contagious might be an understatement.
Kinzy Bowen hit .291 for the tournament and had a .600 on-base percentage. Sadie Horn finished with a .100 on-base percentage after hitting .250 in the district tournament.
Jacie Howton hit .571, while Hafer hit at a .450 clip. McKaylee Orton hit .428, MacKenzie Hood hit .400, Sophie Bell hit .352, Brock hit .333, Gracie Neer hit .266, Rilyn Kirkland hit .250 and Jayde Wiggins hit .222.
“The hitters really fed off the pitching,” Wiggins said. “When you’re scoring 10 to 12 runs a game, that shows confidence.”
In the district and state tournaments combined,
“It was a total team effort,” Wiggins added. “All the way through, everybody did their part.”
Wiggins said the run to state is something that he’ll hang on to for quite some time. And it wasn’t only the games that he enjoyed.
“Just spending time with everyone,” he said.
“Seeing the families and eating dinner. Seeing the joy on the girls’ faces. The games were great, but you also have to remember they’re 9- and 10-year-old girls. So the whole experience was just great.”