PORTLAND, Ore. — Another day, another step closer to a dream ending.
It’s on to the semifinals for the undefeated Lake Air all-stars, who picked up a 7-3 win over Cedar City, Utah, at the Little League World Series at Alpenrose Stadium on Monday.
After four pool play games, Monday marked the start of bracket play for Lake Air, meaning the team from Waco had to win to maintain a shot at a World Series championship. Lake Air manager David Rodriguez called the matchup with Utah “a very, very important game.”
Yet Lake Air looked as relaxed as ever. It nearly doubled Utah up in hits, producing 13 base knocks to Utah’s seven, and relied on another terrific outing from pitcher Daniella Ramirez on its way to the victory.
Lake Air will face the East region champion from Bear, Delaware, in Tuesday’s semifinals at 5:30 p.m. Central. That game will again be televised on ESPN2.
If Lake Air wins that one, it will advance to Wednesday’s title game, slated for 8 p.m. Central.
Lake Air outscored its first three World Series opponents by a combined score of 30-1, but has had to fight and scratch out its last two wins. Lake Air defeated Indiana, 6-4, in its final pool play game on Sunday, and was clinging to a tight 4-3 lead over Utah on Monday before breaking the game open a bit.
“They’re all the best respective areas and regions, and we’re expecting every game at this point to be difficult,” Lake Air’s Rodriguez said in a video interview on Waco ISD’s Facebook page.
Leading 4-3 entering the fifth, Lake Air padded its cushion with a three-run outburst. Yanijah Quintanilla smacked a one-out single, and Ramirez followed right on her heels with a well-struck double to left. Then Dominique Rodriguez legged out a bunt single to drive home Quintanilla and push the score to 5-3.
Two batters later, Makayla Ramos pounded a two-run double into the left-field corner to extend Lake Air’s lead to four runs.
Lake Air jumped out to a 2-0 lead in the top of the first. Asharah Thibodeaux darted home from third on an error from Utah catcher Kamryn Allen, and then the girls from Waco added another run on an RBI groundout by Ramirez.
Utah tied the game at 2 in the bottom of the second on a two-run single by Madison Fuller.
But the ever-relaxed Lake Air bounced right back to take the lead in the third. Thibodeaux led off with a line-drive double to left, and Serena Guardiola followed with a sharp single to make the score 3-2.
Ramirez, who has pitched every game for Lake Air at the World Series, proved to be a gamer. Though she struck out just two batters, she never surrendered the lead and didn’t hurt herself with walks, giving up only one free pass.
Dominique Rodriguez paced Lake Air at the dish with a 3-for-3 outing, with one run scored and two RBIs. Guardiola also banged out three hits, while Thibodeaux had two.
In the end, it was all high-fives and hugs for the Lake Air girls yet again.
“Being on this stage is a great experience that they’ll never forget,” David Rodriguez said.