PORTLAND – Now the real fun starts for the Sterling All-Stars at the Little League Softball World Series.
Sterling wrapped up a dominating 4-0 run through Pool A on Monday with a 14-1 mercy-rule victory over winless Canada at Alpenrose Stadium. Next up is the semifinal round against the No. 2 seed from Pool B, Asia Pacific, which dropped a 16-1 decision to Wilkes County, N.C., in a showdown for the top seed of that pool.
It’s the second time in four years a Sterling team has advanced to the semifinals. The 2008 squad lost in the semis, but bounced back to take third place.
“It’s pretty exciting,” Sterling’s Kylie Powers said. “It puts a smile on all of our faces. It just feels really good.”
Powers, the team’s No. 3 pitcher behind Lexy Staples and Cheyenne Harrington, looked like anything but Plan C. She struck out the first five batters she faced, then recorded her sixth and final out with the aid of slick play from shortstop Hannah Escamilla.
“It was nice for me to start,” Powers said. “I haven’t started in a game at all in All-Stars, but I’m perfectly fine with that. At least I get to play.”
Sterling had little difficulty at the plate, scoring virtually at will against Canada starter Abby Bourque and reliever Sara Stiller. Shannon Long reached base four times on two singles, a walk and a fielder’s choice. She scored four runs and drove in two.
Escamilla drove in three runs and scored two, Mya Pearson doubled twice and scored three runs and Abri Hale and Powers each drove in two runs apiece.
Sterling could have added more runs, but head coach Eric Staples held up runners at third base numerous times on hits and/or wild pitches to limit the damage.
Regular starters Lexy Staples and Nadia Trujillo didn’t start the game as coach Staples mixed and matched his regular starting lineup.
“I haven’t played left [field] for a long time, since I usually play first,” Erin Stroup said. “Before the game I had to ask a couple of people what to do, but there really wasn’t much to do out there today.”
Sterling’s lone lapse came in the third inning, when a pair of errors on Long, playing catcher instead of Trujillo, allowed Canada to score its lone run.
“There was a new catcher and she wanted to show her arm off, and that’s OK,” coach Staples said. “We really only had the one bad play where we looked pretty bad. Other than that, we looked pretty crisp.”
Staples hopes to pitch his daughter for one inning, then Cheyenne Harrington and Powers for two each in today’s semifinals, then come back with Lexy Staples if needed. That would allow him the freedom to use the pitchers as he sees fit for Wednesday’s final round.
The Asia Pacific team didn’t use its ace, Ma Regina Uytiepo, in Monday’s game, but she is likely to start against Sterling.
“I’m glad they used the girl they did today because the girl they’ll have will throw harder, and we’re a fastball-hitting team,” coach Staples said. “Hopefully we’ll see a little more speed and that will help us drive the ball deeper.”