The NOYSA All-Stars won perhaps their wildest game to date, scoring a seesaw 15-11 victory over Wisconsin in their final pool game at the Little League regional tournament on Wednesday.
With the win, the local squad earns the No. 1 seed heading into today’s semifinals, which begin at 11 a.m.
The regional championship game — with the right to represent the Midwest region at the Little League World Series in Oregon on the line — will be played at 3.
“Today was one of the craziest games I’ve ever been a part of,” said NOYSA coach Kolbey Nelson, whose team trailed 3-0 and 8-4 before scoring 11 runs in the final three innings to secure the win.
Entering the game, the NOYSA All-Stars knew they would advance to the semifinals with a win. They could also advance with a loss, but only if certain stipulations were met.
“We were down 8-4, and there were a few minutes there where we were facing elimination of the tournament,” Nelson said. “We knew going into this game that if we lost by more than five runs, then Wisconsin would be in, and if we gave up more than nine runs, Illinois would be in.
“There was a time when that was looking possible.”
But the NOYSA bats came alive just in time, pushing across two runs in the top of the fourth, then six more in the fifth to make it 12-8. Wisconsin responded with three runs in the bottom of the fifth for a 12-11 lead, but NOYSA bounced back with three more in the top of the sixth.
In the bottom of the final inning, NOYSA pitcher Jenna Core got into some trouble as she walked the first two batters she faced. A pop-up to Core accounted for the first out, then catcher Kelly Olthof threw out a would-be base stealer for the second out.
Two more walks led the bases, but a soft grounder to Core ended the game as she tossed the ball home to Olthof for the final out.
“Jenna’s momentum was bringing her home, so she made the good, smart play and got the force-out,” Nelson said. “Every inning was pressure packed.”
Madelyn Nelson got the start for the NOYSA All-Stars. She pitched the first two innings and was not sharp, giving up six hits, a walk and three earned runs.
Core took over for the final four innings, and struggled with her control at times, walking 12 batters to go with five hits allowed.
Still, the NOYSA defense was rock solid and helped the team get out of several jams.
Offensively, Core led the way with three hits,a run and an RBI.
Ashlyn Hall had another big game with two h its, two runs scored and two RBIs, while Nelson had two hits and scored three times.
Taylor Dew broke out of a slump with two hits and four RBIs, while Molly Poole also drove in a pair of runs.
Lauren Hellman and Olthof each scored twice.
Today, NOYSA opens up against the state champions from Iowa. No. 1 pitcher Leah Vaughan will start that game and can pitch a total of nine innings on the day. Nelson, the team’s No. 2 pitcher, is also available since she pitched only two innings on Wednesday.
“We know Iowa has a great catcher, a lot of great athletes, a real good hitting team,” Nelson said. “We watched them a couple times, so we feel like we have a good game plan.
“The key for (Thursday) no doubt about it is, if Leah Vaughan throws strikes, I think we can win it. So far in this championship run, they’re only scoring is when we walk runners. If she throws strikes, I have a lot of faith in the rest of our team.”