Watching the McLean girls’ run for a Little League national championship

August 15, 2013

McLean’s Caitlin Jones makes the grab for an out in the semi-final round of the Little League Softball World Series in Portland, Ore. Some teams wear face masks in the field, some don’t. (Leah Nash for The Washington Post)

I was one of the many Northern Virginians who I’m sure stayed up late last night to watch the McLean Little League Softball All-Stars try to capture the national championship of fast-pitch softball against the Tucson All-Stars. Our J. Freedom duLac captured the excitement of the team on the front page on Tuesday.  I had never seen a girls’ Little League softball game until Tuesday night, when we watched McLean polish off a team from New Jersey. For those who didn’t last all the way to the 12:45 a.m. conclusion this morning, here’s what you missed.

X x x

So apparently it’s a macho thing whether or not to wear facemasks on defense in softball. McLean’s infielders and pitcher are wearing masks in the field, which I have no problem with. But Tucson is not, apparently ready and willing to pick up some large orthodontal or maxillofacial surgical costs when the ol’ 12-inch takes a bad hop off the dirt. Don’t know why you wouldn’t wear one, other than to make a statement.

X x x

It’s a little discomfiting to hear game analyst Michele Smith talk about the players in such statistical detail, and she discusses their skills as if she’s watched a bunch of game tape. Which maybe she has, and nothing against being prepared. But still, these are 11, 12 and 13-year-old girls. It just seems odd to dissect their performances the same way we would a professional.

X x x

And there’s a speed gun on screen too. And a sideline reporter.

X x x

McLean could not have played a sloppier first inning, booting balls and letting Tucson run wild on the bases. Down 2-0 after bottom of first, clearly playing nervous.

Xxx

You had to be 12 on Jan. 1 to play girls Little League this year. So by now many of these players are 13. In baseball the cutoff date is April 30. Also, girls’ Little League is 39 years old, and has 400,000 players. Boys’ Little League is 74 years old and has 1.6 million players, according to press materials I’ve dug up between innings. The boys’ World Series is this weekend in Williamsport, Pa., as always.

X x x

McLean doesn’t get their first hit until the fourth inning (games are six innings). But they tightened up on defense after the first and kept it 3-0.

Tucson’s pitcher, Jazmine Ayala, throws a wicked changeup. That ain’t right. After gunning several of those fastballs at a McLean hitter, she tosses a little slow looper and they’re way out in front. Tucson also doesn’t seem nervous in the field, and puts away the NoVa squad in the fourth. Only six outs left.

X x x

It’s a dirt infield, but they’ve still got a checkerboard pattern. How’d they do that?

X x x

Tucson breaks it open in the bottom of the fourth with a torrent of line drives into the gaps, doubles and triples. 8-0. Think there is a 10-run rule. Yep. Now 9-0. McLean coach Gerry Megas brings in a reliever to try to stop the bleeding before the game is called. Riley Simon gets the third out. We play on.

X x x.

One team was the UCLA basketball of girls’ Little League, the all-stars of Waco, Tex. They won 11 of 13 championships between 1992 and 2004, until McLean, Va. (!!!) ended the run and won the title in 2005.

X x x

Two of the Tucson girls said their favorite player was Alex Rodriguez. Not sayin’ anyone supports juicing or anything, just sayin’…

X X x

The McLean team members are: Gracen Govan, Kate Haas, Elizabeth Hoeymans, Julia Jones, Caitlin Jorae, Gabi Norton, Rachel Remer, Kathryn Sandercock, Riley Simon, Sarah Stahlman, Jamie Wang, Cate Willing, Madison Wolfe.

The coaches are Gerry Megas, Colin Sandercock and Rob Haas.

X x x

McLean’s second hit, an infield single with two out in the sixth, is all she wrote. Tucson wins 9-0. Fast, aggressive, deserving. Congrats to McLean for making it to the championship game, and coming that close to winning the town’s second Little League championship.


The McLean Little League Softball All-Stars, in Portland, Ore., before their run to the championship game. (Little League Softball)
Tom Jackman is a native of Northern Virginia and has been covering the region for The Post since 1998.
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Tom Jackman · August 15, 2013