By Tom Zulewski
Iron County Today
In its opening game of the Little League Softball West Regional, Cedar National didn’t have the road map in alignment. After demolishing the competition at the All-Star tournament, they got a taste of how the game was played on a bigger stage.
Cedar National would rally from a 3-0 fourth-inning deficit to Oakley, Calif., to get started, and the train didn’t stop until a memorable 1-0 win in eight innings over Mill Creek, Wash., earned them the right to play in the Little League World Series that begins today in Portland, Ore., at 9 p.m. against the team from Salisbury, N.C.
With the title-game pitching of Peyton Lister – 12 strikeouts, including a big one that left the go-ahead run stranded at third base in the top of the sixth – and Sidney Webster’s game-winning single that was part of a three-hit day, the Cedar National team was left feeling more than amazed.
“I knew we needed to get outs or this could be it,” Lister said of the situation in the sixth. “I pitched my best and they got the ground balls to finish the inning.”
When Webster lined the first pitch she saw a few feet inside the right-field line with two out in the eighth to drive in the winning run, it set off a celebration that lasted all the way home.
Part of the motivation for Cedar National came from assistant coach Brandon Allen, who started the daily practice of each team member touching the championship banner that hung inside the dining hall at the tournament site.
“He told us ‘that banner’s gonna be ours,’” Lister said of Allen’s motivation plan. “Every time we went to a meal, each one of us would touch it.”
As the tournament wore on and the wins piled up, Webster and the rest of her Cedar National teammates kept on believing with the help of the banner.
“Even if you didn’t at first, you get done eating and go touch it,” Webster said. “It’s crazy. This is an amazing opportunity for us girls to do what we love.”
Now that the stage has reached the top of the charts for the first time, head coach Aaron Wheelwright has vowed he won’t change a thing.
“Keep what we’re doing,” he said. “These girls kept having fun, kept playing well, and kept showing up to play every day. We showed up and the girls did their thing. They stayed calm, stayed in the moment.
“By the fifth, sixth inning, we (coaches) looked at each other and said ‘we’re going to win this.’ We had the momentum and the pitching.”
The top four teams from each pool will square off in a single-game bracket elimination that starts Aug. 14. All of the games will air live on ESPN2 leading up to the Aug. 16 championship game that starts at 7 p.m., MT.
Cedar National Little League Softball World Series Game Schedule
at Portland, Ore.
(all times Mountain)
Wednesday: vs. Salisbury, N.C., 9 p.m.
Friday: vs. Prague, Czech Republic, 2 p.m.
Saturday: vs. Bear, Del., 11 a.m.
Sunday: vs. Canada, 7 p.m.
Remaining schedule TBD.