For the third time in the last several days, the North Ottawa Youth Softball Association (NOYSA) U12 Major All-Stars used a walk-off hit to secure a dramatic victory in the Little League State Tournament in Essexville.
This time, it was a base hit by Kileah Rymal with the bases loaded and one out in the bottom of the sixth inning. The hit broke a 4-4 tie and gave the NOYSA squad a 5-4 win over Rogers City in the semifinals of the state tournament on Monday.
Today, the state championship, and a berth in the Little League of America regional tournament, will be on the line when NOYSA meets St. Claire at noon.
“This is our third walk-off win of the tournament,” coach Kolbey Nelson said. “The girls play well under pressure. When it’s a tight game, they’re focused. It brings out the best in them.”
Early on, it didn’t look like there would be any drama in Monday’s semifinal. NOYSA raced out to a 4-0 lead after two innings. Then scored twice in the first inning when Molly Poole belted a two-run base hit to score Lauren Hellman and Leah Vaughan.
In the second, Jenna Core led off with a hit. She scored on Ashtyn Hall’s double, then Hall came around to score on a double by Rymal.
Starting pitcher Madelyn Nelson was cruising, and with a 4-0 lead, Nelson made a strategic decision to sit Nelson and hand the ball over to Core.
“In Little League, if a pitcher throws more than two innings in a day, they have to sit the next day,” Nelson explained. “We figured, we’re up four, she’s our second best pitcher, and it would be great to be able to turn to her if we need her tomorrow.”
The decision almost came back to cost them.
Core kept Rogers City off the scoreboard in the third and fourth innings, but Rogers City pushed one run across in the fifth, then scored three times in the sixth.
“Jenna threw three great innings for us, then in the sixth, their girls started hitting her a bit, and our defense let her down,” Nelson said.
Core got one out in the sixth, then Lauren Patterson came in and got the second out.
With the score tied and runners on second and third base, Nelson turned back to Nelson, who recorded the final out, inducing a ground ball to second base.
However, she will not be available to pitch today.
“Leah Vaughan gets the ball (today) and she’s our No. 1 pitcher,” Nelson said. “She’s already thrown a couple complete games for us in this tournament, so there’s no reason to think she can’t do the same thing (today).
“If she can keep her walk count low, we have a great chance at winning.
Fans who can’t make it out to Essexville to watch the game can follow the action live online at gamechanger.io. After creating an account, search for NOYSA All Stars.