Softball

All aboard! Again!

Yet another train is once again loaded down with Mooresville area-based passengers heading to the depot at the permanent home of the Little League Softball World Series.

Finding the tracks leading up to the desired destination tougher to travel than when it finally actually arrived at the last unloading dock, the North Carolina girls 12-and-under fastpitch softball all-star team that once again counts a near handful of local-based products on its membership roster. They captured the Little League Softball Southeast Regional championship crown to yet book the program’s passage for participation in the marquee – and nationally televised - LLSWS event.

North Carolina, based out of Salisbury and with a sanctioned Little League Softball Rowan County charter that includes the eastern portion of Iredell County in its coverage area, followed up the bagging of three consecutive one-run wins – featuring a pair of shutouts and one no-hit pitching gem in the process – during earlier-round play . They erupted for a barrage of first-inning runs for an eventual must less dramatic triumph in the determining regional title tilt.

The N.C. entry wiggled its way into the double-elimination affair’s preferred winner’s bracket number-one perch with the eight-team field’s only unbeaten record. This is buoyed by back-to-back decisions by matching 1-0 scores over first Virginia and then Florida before manufacturing the eventual winning win in an extended last-at-bat fashion to defeat nemesis Tennessee, 5-4, in a winner’s bracket final that needed one additional inning to decide.

Then, in the championship finals where the North Carolina team needed one more win to cap its title trek, the all-stars matched their entire previous number of runs scored over the course of the three previous appearances in the very first inning alone. They used the outburst to run rampant past a fellow finalist team from West Virginia, 9-1, that entered the ordeal needing to deal the N.C. team two straight losses to advance.

With the performance, the N.C. team – which first played together as a complete unit to start the Little League postseason phase of play that began nearly a month ago – improved its record to the 10-0 mark. This is while scoring the organization’s fourth trip to the LLSWS in the last five years and marked its return to that diamond after just missing the train last summer.

The presence of the Mooresville area talent helping fill the team’s pool of players more than managed to make an impact throughout the team’s recent week-long stay in the Southeast Regional once again held in Warner Robins, Georgia.

In fact, right out of the team’s starting gate, one product in particular stood out in the spotlight. Left-handed pitcher Campbell Schaen, a rising eighth-grader at Mooresville Middle School, hurled a no-hitter that finished only two hit batters shy of a perfect game when helping jumpstart North Carolina’s opening-appearance effort in the 1-0 win over Virginia.

Also in that game, fellow MMS product Lauren Vanderpool collected one of the winning team’s two hits and also scored the game’s only run after moving into scoring position with a stolen base.

In the second game of the N.C. team’s play, Mooresville’s Avrelle Harrell paired base knocks and accounted for the only run batted in against Florida. Again dominating in the pitcher’s circle, Schaen registered her second straight complete-game shutout while allowing only two hits.

In game three, opposite a Tennessee team that knocked North Carolina out of the previous year’s regional field, revenge took its time taking place. A game knotted in a 4-all tie at the conclusion of six regulation innings swung in favor of the eventual winners in the bottom of the seventh. A walk-off base hit drove home the winning run.

Schaen hurled all but the seventh inning before leaving with no decision.

Meanwhile, at the plate, Vanderpool legged out a triple among her two hits and also stole two bases and scored a run. Fellow area product Cadence Lane also contributed a triple to the winning cause.

In the anticlimactic regional championship contest against West Virginia that saw the winners push a total of seven runs across home plate in the first inning alone, Schaen went the route to collect the win, giving up just the one run on three hits while striking out seven. She wound up pitching all but one inning during the team’s entire regional run.

Offensively, Vanderpool banged out a pair of hits and also drove home a matching number of teammates, while both Lane and Harrell chimed in with a base hit and run batted in, respectively, apiece.

The four current Mooresville products join a long line of similar past players also playing pivotal roles in the organization’s success. Currently helping highlight the area’s participation remains the 2015 team that captured the coveted Little League Softball World Series title anointing it as the 12-U age division’s international champion.

In addition to the quartet of Mooresville players on the team, also included on the roster are: Ashley Yang, Arabelle Shulenburger, Lexie Ritchie, Carmen Freeze, Riley Haggas, Kynlee Destraze, Kassidy Sechler, Andie Evans, Kennedi Fisher and EmmaRae Cline.

As the Southeast Regional representative into the LLSWS, North Carolina will depart – this time via airplane – early next week in order to attend official opening ceremonies scheduled to take place on Tuesday.

N.C’s first pool game will take place against Southwest Regional winner Louisiana the following day. Other teams in the bracket include host Oregon, Canada and Italy, the latter the Europe/Africa region champ. The other five-team field features Pennsylvania, Iowa, Latin America champion Mexico, Asia/Pacific winner Philippines and West Regional champion Hawaii.

All of the LLSWS games will take place at Portland’s Alpenrose Stadium. The ESPN family of networks will be providing live TV coverage of every game played as well.

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