This sizzling summer season’s North Carolina Rowan County-housed Southeast Regional winning girls 12-and-under fastpitch softball team circled all the bases and latched onto its second coveted Little League Softball World Series championship title in the last five years.
Featuring a roster littered with Mooresville-area groomed talent, the crew fondly referred to by its supportive cheering section as “RoCo” tacked on the final remnants of an overall undefeated postseason by defeating fellow same pool-play participant Southwest Region representative Louisiana, 4-1. The win came in late Wednesday night’s title tilt between the last two survivors following two full weeks of LLSBWS play.
North Carolina posted its second win of World Series play over the Louisiana-based rival during LLSBWS play to also apply the finishing touches to an overall 17-0 showing put forth over the span of some six weeks’ worth of postseason play overall.
After taking and passing what wound up being its most difficult test tackled for the entire duration of its World Series stay courtesy of a two-extra-inning, fingernail biting of a 3-2 nudging past the Oregon District entry, it was a much different story told in the summer classic’s finals.
The Southeast squad struck for what wound up being all the runs it would need over the span of its first two turns at bat and fended off numerous potential scoring threats by the Southwest crew to complete the quest. A routine last-out grounder to the shortstop with a pair of opposing runners on base accounted for the last out and set the program’s second championship celebration over its last four such LLSWS appearances in motion as well.
With the win, the Southeast Regional entry scored the right to sit side-by-side the organization’s ’15 team that also featured some same-family ties in the roster’s make-up in place as well.
Among the ones participating in the celebratory festivities were Mooresville products who also playing pivotal roles in the process.
In the final game against the Southwest Region rep, rising Mooresville Middle School eighth-grader Campbell Schaen preserved her personal perfect pitching record in place throughout all postseason play including the World Series with another complete-game performance. The lefthander wiggled her way out of multiple jams to surrender just the one run on seven hits while striking out nine.
The early offensive support provided RoCo with the initial edge and was triggered by the presence of local products as well. Leadoff batter Lauren Vanderpool scored the first run of the game and joined teammate Schaen by contributing a base hit each to the team’s three-hit total overall. Also making a stand, Mooresville’s Avrelle Harrell crossed home plate with a run to boot.
The outcome was in sharp contrast to what took place when the same two teams met for the first time during the course of earlier pool play in the World Series debut for each. In that affair, Southeast pitcher Schaen came within a strike of hurling a perfect game in a 7-0 victory.
In the semifinal squeaker secured against Oregon District entry buoyed by the support of a decidedly partisan home crowd courtesy of playing a mere 10 miles from its organization’s headquarters, two more than the regular required six innings used to constitute a regulation LLSBWS contest were played before the North Carolina crew surfaced with the narrow, 3-2 win.
Schaen lasted the first six innings in the pitcher’s circle, departing at that point in order by rule to remain available to also pitch during the finals with the score tied at 1-1 each. During her appearance, Schaen allowed the one run on seven hits while striking out seven.
At the plate, Schaen loomed as her single largest supporter with the piling up of a team-high three hits and also scoring two runs as well. Also for the victors, Harrell collected a hit and was credited with a run batted in while Vanderpool logged in with a run scored.
By Little League rules, the eighth inning of play employed the used of the international tiebreaking procedure designed to speed up the process. Under the format, each half inning of play began with the offensive team already having a runner in place on second base and in potential scoring position.
Southeast, the designated visiting team, struck for two runs in the top of the eighth that allowed it to weather the single run managed by the Oregon entry in return during the home half of the same frame.
That verdict, too, paled in comparison to when the same teams squared off in previous pool play. Southeast cruised to a 7-1 win over Oregon behind the pitching of Schaen – allowing the one run on six hits with five strikeouts – and a pair of base hits apiece from both Schaen and Vanderpool.
Also from the immediate Mooresville area, Cadence Lane is a member of the team’s official 14-player roster.
In addition to her sparkling pitching performance resulting in an overall 5-0 record coming complete with the allowing of two earned runs among the three total scored against her while in the circle and racking of up 49 strikeouts in 33 innings of work, Schaen also connected at a .524 rate with three runs batted in during World Series play.
Vanderpool accounted for three runs batted in and clubbed an inside-the-park home run to spark her appearance.
Harrell owned a .333 batting eye while also accumulating four RBI.
Lane was also credited with four runs batted in during her LLSBWS stay.
Other members of the team, all hailing from Rowan County, include: Ashley Yang, Arabelle Shulenburger, Lexis Ritchie, Carmen Freeze, Riley Haggas, Kynlee Dextraze, Kassidy Sechler, Andie Evans, Kennedi Fisher and EmmaRae Cline.
As it turns out, the teammates’ time together will be rekindled and recalled over the course of many times during the upcoming middle school fall softball season schedule. That is the case as practically all of the players are also members of their respective middle school programs that all compete as members of the Rowan-Iredell Middle School Conference.
The crowning achievement was broadcast live internationally in primetime via the primary ESPN network’s family of outlets.
It garnered even additional air time for a program that has secured its elite status on such a stage on several occasions over the past years. Rowan County has now appeared in the LLSBWS championship game a total of four times since 2015, sandwiching defeats to teams each hailing from Texas taking place in both 2016 and again in 2017, respectively, around the now pair of wins christening it as the home of the champions.
The capturing of the LLSBWS team trophy, officially presented during the post-play awards ceremony conducted on the field of the host Alpenrose Stadium in Portland, Oregon, earned the Rowan County organization its second such prize to show for its past four appearances overall in the marquee competition that attracted participating teams from around the globe.