LOWER SUSSEX, Del. – If you’re a softball team with a pitcher who has found a groove, you’re likely to be dancing at day’s end.
So it went for Royevel Palma and the Philippines.
Palma kept up her dominant run, striking out 15 batters in propelling the Philippines over Waco’s District 9 all-stars, 7-0, in the championship game of the Senior League Softball World Series on Sunday afternoon. Palma struck out 68 batters in the tournament, including 14 in an earlier win over District 9.
Despite the loss for District 9, it will go down as a memorable summer for the Waco-based bunch, which featured players from a variety of local Little Leagues. They made their first-ever appearance in the title game, and overwhelmed their opponents prior to the World Series stage, giving up a total of only five runs at the district, sectional, state and regional levels.
District 9 also overcame a pair of earlier losses at the World Series by picking up four big victories, including a 2-1 win over the host and defending World Series champion Delaware on Saturday night.
But there was no cracking the façade of Palma, a 17-year-old right-hander who intends to play for the Philippines national team next year, when she’s 18. She lived on the outside corner with a high-velocity fastball and a hard-to-judge riseball, and also picked up several strikeouts when the District 9 batters would chase pitches outside of the zone.
District 9 managed to get the first batter of the game aboard against Palma. Jordyn Reese tagged an infield roller toward third and sprinted down the line as the Philippines third baseman Jamm’n Joyse Rasco threw high on the throw to first. The play was scored an error on Rasco, but even an accurate throw might not have caught the speedy Reese.
As it turned out, that would be District 9’s last baserunner for a while. Palma retired the next nine batters in a row, and struck out at least two batters in every inning but the sixth.
District 9 starting pitcher Kennedy Parker held the Philippines scoreless in the first two innings. But then the team representing Asia-Pacific broke through with a four-run third inning.
Following a single and a walk, Marika Manaig punched an inside-out swing for an RBI single to right. The throw from rightfielder Maci Matthews skipped all the way to the fence, allowing a second run to score. Mae Langga then tagged a long fly to left that barely stayed in the park, bouncing off the fence for an RBI double. The Philippines added a fourth run in the inning on Palma’s RBI single to center.
With the way Palma was throwing, a four-run advantage felt like a mountain to overcome. But the Philippines left no doubt by scoring three more runs in the fourth, opening up a 7-0 lead.
District 9 broke up Palma’s no-hitter in the fourth when Shelby Lashombe made solid contact and lofted a fly ball to left. The leftfielder Langga lost the ball in the sun, and it fell in for a single.
Again, Palma didn’t flinch. She struck out the next two batters and then induced an inning-ending flyout to preserve the shutout. District 9’s only other hit in the game came in the seventh, when the jackrabbit-quick Haylie Mitchell led off with a bunt single.
Palma didn’t let the threat materialize into anything more. She got the dangerous-hitting Kennedy Cox to pop out, then struck out the final two batters for the victory, clinching the first World Series title for Asia-Pacific.