The Tigard Little League 10-11 all-star softball team captures the Oregon state tourney title

by: DAN BROOD - SMILING BRIGHT -- Tigard's Abby Soderquist is all smiles after scoring on a rundown during Sunday's state championship game.SALEM — This year, they wanted more.

They wanted to do even better. And, in the end, they were the very best.

Very best in the entire state, that is.

The Tigard Little League ages 10-11 softball all-star team, featuring many of the same players that finished third at last year’s 9-10 state tournament, wasn’t about to let anything stand in their way this year — not even a talented, imposing Centennial squad.

The Tigard girls, determined not to be denied, battled their way to championship glory, as they bested Centennial 11-8 in a nerve-wracking championship game of the Oregon State Tournament, played Sunday at Leslie Middle School.

“This means everything to us,” Tigard’s Kaitlyn Cafarelli said during the team’s victory celebration.

“We’re the best in the state,” Abby Soderquist added. “We’re the best out of all the teams out there everywhere.”

“All of our hard work since last year paid off,” Kaylee Mo said. “And, yes, I cried.”

“Everyone knows us now,” Elli Dardis said.

“This means everything,” Grace Nelson said. “We became a family. We all love each other through the ups and downs.”

by: DAN BROOD - JUMPING FOR JOY -- The Tigard Little League ages 10-11 all-star softball team, with Kaitlyn Cafarelli in front, starts celebrating following the team's 11-8 win over Centennial in the Oregon State Tournament championship game, held Sunday in Salem. But, for the Tigard team this summer, there certainly seemed to be plenty more ups.

The squad first won the District 4 championship in dominating fashion. The Tigard team then won its two state tournament pool play games and the tourney semifinal contest, each by at least 15 runs (see related stories), to earn its spot in Sunday evening’s title contest.

In that championship game, Tigard faced a Centennial squad that blazed a similar dominating path to the title tilt.

“I kept telling the girls that you want to play a real softball game,” Tigard manager Steven Dardis said. “And this was a real softball game.”

And an exciting one at DAN BROOD - TIGARD RUN -- Tigard's Riley White (right)crosses home plate before Centennial catcher Savannah Darling can make a tag.

Tigard got of to a fast start to the game, scoring a pair of runs in the top of the first inning.

Riley White got things going for Tigard with a leadoff single to left field. Kaitlyn Gearin followed with her own single to left, with White moving up to second base on the play.

White ended up scoring from third base on a wild pitch, and Gearin would score on a passed ball to give Tigard its early 2-0 lead.

Tigard kept rolling, in a big way, in the top of the second inning.

Emily Torres walked to lead off the inning. Soderquist followed with a single to left field and Nelson walked to load the bases. From there, bases-loaded walks by White and Gearin and a two-run infield single by Elli Dardis pushed the Tigard lead to 6-0. Gearin would score on an error and Victoria Vanderburg singled in Dardis to give Tigard an 8-0 lead.

Tigard got another run, in exciting style, in the top of the third inning. Soderquist drew a leadoff walk and she was on third base when Gearin put down a bunt single.

Centennial Savannah Darling scooped up the ball in front of the plate and spotted Soderquist, who was too far off the base. That’s where the fun began.

Caught in a rundown between third base and home, Soderquist bounced back and forth, with the ball being thrown past her time and time again.

“I just tried to jump the ball,” she said. “It felt like it went on a long time. I was really nervous. I heard someone yell ‘run,’ and I went for it.”

Soderquist ended up scoring on the play, upping the Tigard lead to 9-0.

But, as it turned out, that wasn’t a safe lead.

by: DAN BROOD - TAGGED OUT-- Tigard third baseman Kaylee Mo (left) puts a tag on Centennial's Keri Jensen on a stolen base attempt in Sunday's state championship game. Tigard got an 11-8 victory. Centennial came storming back, first, getting a run in the bottom of the third inning. Centennial, getting two-run singles from both Shelby Hemmer and Darling, then scored six runs in the bottom of the fourth inning to cut Tigard’s lead to 9-7.

“I think I had a mini heart attack then,” Nelson said.

But Tigard didn’t panic.

Tigard, with White having and infield single and eventually scoring on an error, upped its lead to 10-7 in the top of the fifth inning. Tigard then got a big defensive play in the bottom of the frame when Nelson, playing at catcher, threw out Centennial’s Keri Jensen at third base, on a stolen base attempt, with Mo making the tag.

Tigard got another run in the top of the sixth inning, when Mo hit a one-out single to right field and ended up scoring on Soderquist’s two-out single to center field, giving the team an 11-7 lead going into the bottom of the sixth inning.

Sicily Thompson drew a leadoff walk for Centennial in the sixth. She moved all the way to third base on a groundout by Kendall Hemmer and then she scored on a groundout by Kaiya Oswalt. But, Vanderburg, pitching in relief for Tigard, got Trinity Miller to ground out to Gearin at second base, igniting Tigard’s state-championship celebration.

“I just jumped in the air and screamed really loud,” Mo said.

“We all screamed,” Cafarelli said.

“I was crying in the outfield,” Torres said. “I knew we’d win.”

“We really wanted to win, and we did,” White said.

“We all believed in ourselves,” Elli Dardis DAN BROOD - VICTORY DANCE -- Tigard'' Sophia VanderSommen celebrates following the team's 11-8 win over Centennial in the state title game.

“Coach Dardis said that we’re a real good team,” Emilie Otto said. “Today, we were a great team.”

“That was a real good softball game,” Ella Dearborn said.

“I have a lot of respect for that team,” Soderquist said of Centennial.

Tigard, as a team, had 11 base hits in the state championship game.

White went 2 for 2 at the plate with a walk, three runs scored and an RBI. Gearin went 2 for 3 with a walk, two runs scored and an RBI. Soderquist went 2 for 3 with a walk, a stolen base, two runs scored and an RBI. Mo went 2 for 4 with a run scored.

Elli Dardis, Vanderburg and Otto added one hit apiece. Sophia VanderSommen, who started at catcher for Tigard, drove in a round with a groundout. Alexa VanderSommen belted a line drive to lead off the top of the fifth inning.

Gearin started in the pitcher’s circle for Tigard. In three and two-thirds innings of work, she struck out two batters and walked none. Vanderburg, pitching the final two and one-third innings, also struck out two and walked one.

“The first practice, we sat under a tree and discussed what we wanted to do this season,” Dearborn said. “We said we wanted to win district and state, and we did it.”

“This means an exceptional amount to us,” Steven Dardis said. “All the practice we did, all the hard work the girls did, really showed. And the determination they had was amazing. And every single girl on the team contributed. Seeing them so happy now is what it’s all about. They’ll always remember this.”

Bill Gearin and Mark Torres are the team’s coaches.

by: DAN BROOD - THE CHAMPS -- Players and coaches for the Tigard Little League ages 10-11 all-star softball team poses with the state championship banner following their title-game victory over Centennial. The Tigard players have already started looking ahead to next summer, where they’ll potentially be playing at the Majors level. The District 4 champion at the Majors level earns an automatic berth to the Little League Softball World Series.

“This year, state, next year, the world,” Soderquist said with a smile.

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