The Bend North Majors All-Stars Softball team is heading to the Little League World Series after defeating Montana 8-4 in the Northwest Regional tournament championship. And it was quite the journey for this team of young athletes.
Bend North started the tournament 2-0, outscoring their first two opponents 19-1.
Then they ran into Montana, losing 7-2 in the semifinal game.
They faced Washington in the elimination semifinal game in a back-and-forth contest filled with drama and controversy. The girls won 7-6 in a comeback victory in the last inning of play.
On Friday, Bend North went up against Montana again for the title.
Fans, parents, and Bend North players from all divisions held a wach party at Abby’s Legendary Pizza.
“I just feel nervous,” said Stevie, who played on the Bend North Minors All-Stars team this season. “I just want to win so bad, and I want them to play really well!”
The room was filled with jitters, cheers and frustration, but the establishment was filled with those rooting for the girls.
“I think it is just sick that Bend is a pretty small town, that we are like on ESPN right now, like competing against Montana right now,” said Gus Stonich, who plays for the Bend North Juniors All-Stars team.
Ryker Hartlaub, who played in the Regional Tournament in San Bernardino, California last year for the Bend North Majors baseball teams, knows all about the experience.
“You do feel a lot of pressure. But at the end of the day, you just got to look around and appreciate where you are because that is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity that you have to cherish,” said Hartlaub.
Bend North was down 3-0 after the top of the 1st inning, but responded immediately. Lily Christensen hit a inside-the-park home run with two runners on to tie the game.
Bend North blew the game open in the fourth inning.
With the bases loaded, Jessie Berry hit a three-run triple to make it 6-3. Bend North would add two more runs to make it 8-3.
Montana managed to score one more run in the sixth, but got no closer.
“Bend North just won, and they are going to the Little League World Series,” screamed Addy Berg, who played for the Bend North Minors All-Stars team.
“So special, ” said All-Star Sylie Seaton’s mom, Raphael Seaton. “It’s always better to see your kid succeed than you succeed yourself. It’s just so proud.”
“It was electric,” said Bend North Little League President Dominic Gatto. “I can’t believe it. They played so hard for so long. Kevin (Guiney), the manager, told me in March they were going to make it to the Little League World Series, and they did it.”
The LLWS happens runs August 6-13 in Greenville, NC. Bend North’s first game is set for Monday, Aug. 7 at 7:00 a.m PDT against the winner of the Latin America-Canada matchup the day before.
Next week, Bend is hosting the Juniors Regional All-Stars Baseball Tournament at Caldera High School. The Bend North Juniors team is in that tournament and play Friday. Opening ceremonies are Wednesday at 8:30 a.m.