Unwavering desire to be champions carries Illinois District 17 to Senior League World Series crown
ROXANA, Del. — The Illinois District 17 softball team never flinched.
Twice during Sunday’s Senior League World Series championship game, the team from Little River-Academy, Texas, erased one-run deficits, only to see Illinois regain the lead each time. Then, in the eighth inning of a tie game, Texas put two runners in scoring position with one out, and Illinois maneuvered around it unscathed.
Then, clinging to a one-run lead in the ninth inning and a runner on second base, Springfield’s Mia Volpert induced a comebacker for the final out, giving Illinois a 5-4 victory and the World Series title.
It capped a perfect week at the Lower Sussex Little League Complex for a team determined to prove it belonged.
A year ago, District 17 won the Central Region championship and went 3-2 at the World Series, getting eliminated in the quarterfinals of the single-elimination bracket.
This year, the Illinois state champions steamrolled their way to the title game, winning their first six games by a combined score of 63-8.
The title game, though, became a dogfight.
Illinois took the lead in the top of third when Pleasant Hill’s Ava Wombles singled with one out and scored on a two-out double by Quincy Notre Dame’s Caitlin Bunte. Texas answered by scoring two unearned runs with two outs in the bottom of the third.
Yet, in the top of the fourth, Illinois came right back. With one out, Macomb’s Kylie Robinson singled to put runners at first and second, and Aspen Kitowski followed with an RBI single to center field to tie the game.
Illinois took the lead in the sixth as Volpert smashed a solo home run to straightaway center field, but Texas capitalized on an error in the bottom of the sixth to get a run on a sacrifice fly to center field.
Neither team threatened in the seventh inning, sending the game to extra innings. In the top of the eighth, Bunte doubled with one out, but she was stranded. Texas got two runners on with one out in the bottom of the eighth, but Volpert got a strikeout, and after intentionally walking Texas’ leading hitter, she got out of the inning with a comebacker.
Starting the ninth with a runner on second base, Calhoun’s Audrey Gilman laid down a sacrifice bunt that slid past the pitcher’s circle and allowed Vanessa Nunez to score the go-ahead run. Kitowski delivered an RBI single later in the inning to make it 5-3.
Texas got a run back on a one-out single in the bottom of the ninth, but Volpert induced a groundout for the second out and comebacker for the final out.
Volpert struck out six, walked three and allowed eight hits over nine innings to earn the victory, Bunte, Volpert, Robinson and Kitowski each finished with two hits as the Illinois squad collected 10 hits overall.
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