The Wallowa Valley Cubs softball team initially met some stiff opposition at the 2019 West Region Junior Girls Softball Tournament in Tucson, Ariz. About 40 fans made the trek to Arizona to cheer on the team.
The Cubs started the series with a 19-0 loss to the Four Peaks, Ariz. squad on Thursday, July 18. The game ended after four innings because of the score.
Whether due to nervousness or excellent pitching, the Cubs had a problem getting their bats going, managing two hits over the duration. As Coach Shane Kirkland recollected, everything the ladies hit seemed to go right to one of the defensive players. Catcher Cooper Nave got the team’s first hit in the fourth inning, when the Cubs nearly scored a run. Cubs errors also contributed to the loss.
Talking with the team after the game, Kirkland said that multiple girls mentioned “we really thought we would come here and beat everybody.” While this didn’t pan out, Kirkland called it a great statement for such a young group.
“No matter how hard you try it’s hard to coach or teach confidence and we had no lack of that going into the game,” he said.
The coach also spared no praise for the opponents, noting that they came to play ball.: “Twin Peaks, Arizona, has a great program most of them playing year around they made plays when they needed to and hit the crap out of the ball,” he said.
The Cubs had a .285 batting average and a .285 on-base percentage.
The next day saw the Cubs facing Nunaka Valley Little League of Alaska. This game proved much more Cubs-friendly with the squad barely losing, 10-7.
“This was a great game that went back and forth for most of the game up to the 6th and 7th inning where they put up eight runs,” Kirkland said. “That’s when they scored the majority of their runs. The three-run home run shot hurt us.”
The Cubs did put runners on base and even scored in the final two but were unable to match what Alaska put on the scoreboard. Like many Cubs games this year, going down into the bottom of the seventh frame, the ladies rallied to score three runs with two outs. With two runners on that were ready to score, an unfortunate strike out ended both the rally and the game.
“We were making a run at it, giving ourselves some good momentum with runners in scoring position,” Kirkland said. “We had the opportunity; we were right there.”
Kirkland said that the ladies played a good game with moments of brilliance. He noted that Cubs’ bats were much livelier then the previous night. However, the squad’s over all average was lacking. However, the Cubs had several noticeable plate performances. Liddy Fisher batted an amazing 1.000 while hustling Cooper Nave kept her bat hot with a notable .750 in the box.
The Cubs had a .393 batting average and a .393 on-base percentage.
Saturday, July 20, saw the squad in the consolation bracket, as the tournament is double elimination. The Cubs fared much better than their previous two outings, defeating host team, Thornydale Little League 8-6. The game saw a virtual see-saw battle with the teams frequently changing leads until the Cubs broke the game open in the third inning, scoring four runs., They entered the seventh inning with a comfortable 8-4 lead.
Thornydale wasn’t finished yet however, immediately putting players on base and scoring two runs. With two outs and the tying runner on base, the Cubs buckled down and got the last out.
Aimee Meyers secured the win for the Cubs, striking out three while throwing an amazing 26 first-pitch strikes. Abby straight had a hot night with her bat, poking in two RBIs. The Cubs had 15 hits overall.
Kirkland said that he was amazed, but not surprised by the 15-hit Cubs explosion. He had told the ladies earlier that day to relax and have some fun by the pool, and that they responded in kind.
Kirkland said the Arizona weather wasn’t having much effect on the Cubs’ play. He noted the weather wasn’t much different from Medford, where the team won the state championship.
The coach noted the whole experience is one of excitement for the squad. He said that he thought the team was prepared well and ready as possible, especially considering the youth of the team.
“The girls have as good a spirits as you could,” he said. “It’s great softball, it’s fun softball and super competitive. the girls are getting to see a lot of great stuff.”