Snow Canyon boots Italy; set for World Series championship game on ESPN

West (Snow Canyon) players celebrate after beating Italy 8-6 in Junior League Softball World Series game, Kirkland, Washington, Aug. 3, 2018 | Photo courtesy of Tara Landis, St. George News

ST. GEORGE — The West team from Snow Canyon, Utah, made it to the Junior League Softball World Series finals thanks to a come-from-behind victory over Italy Friday afternoon.

The 8-6 semifinal win was the Utah team’s sixth straight victory in as many days at the weeklong tournament being staged in Kirkland, Washington.

Catcher Kambrie Stuart of West (Snow Canyon) talks with pitcher Jenna Thorkelson during Junior League Softball World Series game versus Italy in Kirkland, Washington, Aug. 3, 2018 | Photo courtesy of Tara Landis, St. George News

During pool play earlier in the week, the West champions had defeated the Emilia Romagna team from Bologna, Italy, competing as the Europe-Africa champions, by a score of 18-4.

This time around, however, Italy took a 6-4 lead in the second inning, thanks to a five-run rally that prompted the replacement of West starting pitcher Tyler Mooring with reliever Jenna Thorkelson, who ended up pitching the remainder of the game.

West had taken a 4-1 lead in the bottom of the first as Italy’s pitcher Maya Milano struggled a bit, walking three batters and throwing multiple pitches that were off the mark or illegally delivered. The miscues led to four West runs, despite Snow Canyon getting just one hit that inning, a single by Kambrie Stuart.

Italy answered immediately with a five-run rally in the top of the second, with Milano belting a two-out, bases loaded triple to give Italy back the lead, 5-4. Two pitches later, Italy’s Sarah Fattori grounded to short but was safe at first on an error, and Milano scored from third to put Italy up 6-4.

Neither team scored during the third or fourth innings as the tension mounted on the sidelines.

Snow Canyon’s players and coaches said they still had faith they’d come back.

“When I came in, I didn’t panic because I knew we would all play together,” said Thorkelson, who ended up throwing five shutout innings of relief, allowing just two hits while striking out three and walking one.

“I knew that my defense was solid and they would be behind me,” she added. “I knew we would get our bats going!”

Addison Lacayo of West (Snow Canyon) lays down a bunt in the sixth inning versus Italy, with teammate Jael Wilde eventually scoring from second on an error on the play to tie the game 6-6. Kirkland, Washington, Aug. 3, 2018 | Photo courtesy of Tara Landis, St. George News

Snow Canyon managed to score one run in the bottom of the fifth to narrow the deficit to a single run, 6-5. After Stuart led off the inning with a double, Ginny Deming also doubled to score Stuart. However, West’s hopes for regaining the lead soon ended as the next batter hit into a double play, after which the inning ended shortly thereafter on a ground out to the pitcher.

After shutting down Italy once again in the sixth inning, Snow Canyon went back to work. Jael Wilde led off with a single, after which Addison Lacayo laid down a bunt to sacrifice Wilde to second. However, a fielding error by Italy resulted in Wilde scoring to tie the game 6-6, with Lacayo advancing to second on the same play. Lacayo was then replaced in the lineup by Tavie Landis, who advanced to third when teammate McKenna Staheli grounded out.

Thorkelson then grounded to first, but the first baseman opted to throw home to try to get Landis out at the plate. She was safe on the play, and West regained the lead, 7-6.

Deming later hit a single to score Anyssa Montano, who’d taken over as a courtesy runner for Thorkelson.

West (Snow Canyon) players and coaches pose in front of scoreboard after beating Italy 8-6 in Junior League Softball World Series game, Kirkland, Washington, Aug. 3, 2018 | Photo courtesy of Tara Landis, St. George News

Down 8-6 heading into the seventh and final inning, Italy threatened with a lead-off single but could manage little else, as two of the final three batters flew out to the outfield. Erin Gunn’s catch in right field for the final out set off a wild celebration as a sea of baby blue and yellow uniforms gathered on the field to exchange hugs and high fives.

“These girls never cease to amaze me,” said West head coach Jeremy Mooring. “They don’t hang their heads and they stay focused. I can call on any of them at any time and they produce.”

“Addison Lacayo’s bunt was huge, especially from our power hitter. We made great plays in the outfield and our infield was solid.”

The win puts West in Saturday afternoon’s championship game against the Southwest champs from Smithville, Texas, winners of Friday’s other semifinal game.

West defeated Southwest 10-0 on Wednesday, but the Texas team has won two tough games since then, upsetting the Central champions from Ohio 9-4 on Thursday and overpowering the East champions from Rhode Island 15-10 on Friday.

Saturday’s championship game, scheduled for 2 p.m. MDT, will be televised on ESPNews and live-streamed on the network’s website.

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Twitter: @STGnews

Copyright St. George News, LLC, 2018, all rights reserved.

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