Eastlake Little League’s softball squad ended last year’s season one victory shy of qualifying for the Junior League Softball World Series.
This summer, the Sammamish team has reached the big dance and will take on Bulacan Little League of Norzagaray, Philippines in the local team’s opening game at 5:30 p.m. July 28 at Everest Park in Kirkland.
Eastlake — the host squad and District 9 champion — will be one of 10 teams (six from the United States and four international) competing for the championship. The title game will take place at 2 p.m. Aug. 3 and will be television on ESPN2. Teams consist of players ages 13 to 14.
Head coach Jeff Austin said it was a group effort — “one through 13” — that gave Eastlake the district title. They finished with a 4-1 record and defeated Redmond, 4-0, to notch the crown.
“Team, team, team. Everyone. All for one and one for all,” added Austin, whose team returns four players (and just one starter) from last year’s team that took second at district, won state and lost to eventual World Series champion Utah in the west regionals final.
At districts, Eastlake kicked things off with a 14-3 victory over Kirkland; defeated Redmond, 11-2; lost to Redmond, 6-2, in championship game No. 1; and then claimed the title with the shutout against Redmond, who Austin said has been Eastlake’s nemesis for several years and beat the locals in the district championship game last summer.
Eastlake’s Abby McNear and Malia Moriarity provided stellar pitching against Kirkland. In the first Redmond game, Eastlake amassed 18 hits, Leah Cupp had four RBIs and Moriarity pitched all seven innings to earn the victory. In Redmond’s win, both teams played solid ball and didn’t commit any errors, and Redmond broke a 2-2 tie in the fifth inning. Eastlake then won the title behind the pitching of McNear, hitting of Camden Austin, Moriarity and McNear and top-notch defense.
“It was huge, that last game,” coach Austin said. “Redmond’s a fabulous team. What we did was impressive, shutting them out with the hitting they have. We said, ‘This is how we can play.’”
Austin praised his defense to the hilt, adding that Eastlake’s players displayed some running, “crazy” catches in the outfield.
When they assembled the team, “What we noticed right away was that the girls can throw the gloves around,” Austin said. “Our ethos has always been, if you get into trouble, let your defense play.”
For more World Series information, visit www.littleleague.org/world-series/2019/jlsbws/