TUCSON – Utah beat Washington 12-2 Thursday night at the Arthur Pack Regional Park to capture the championship of the Junior League Softball Western Region playoffs. Utah (4-0) advances to Kirkland, Washington to play in the Junior League Softball World Series, starting on July 29. The team representing Snow Canyon Little League, located in Santa Clara, is scheduled to play Latina America in the first game of the World Series.
Washington (4-2) represents Eastlake Little League, located in Sammamish.
Utah broke open a 1-1 tie with five runs in the top of the third and three more in the fourth to put distance over a team that played them tough only two days ago in the first round of the championship bracket. In that game, Washington went into the seventh inning with a 2-1 lead only to see Utah score three runs for the win.
McKenna Staheli came up with a game-winning double in the seventh to secure that victory for Utah despite the excellent performance from Washington pitcher Leslie Hines. Hines finished with 10 strikeouts but it wasn’t enough and Washington was forced into an elimination phase where they had to beat Utah twice in order to advance to the World Series.
Hines got the call once again on Thursday night but it was the combined efforts of Utah pitchers Tyler Mooring and Jenna Thorkelson that ultimately made the difference. Mooring limited Washington to two unearned runs in 2 1-3 innings of work and Thorkelson came in and shut the door by erasing the first eight batters she faced and 13 of the final 15.
“Our team has played together for a really long time and we are super close,” Thorkelson said. “We just had a lot of fun here.”
For her efforts, Thorkelson was named Co-MVP of the tournament after she finished with 24 strikeouts in 14 innings of work while only giving up three earned runs. Thorkelson also led her team in hitting, going 8-12 (.667) with three RBI. Mooring led the team in RBI with five and Erin Gunn collected four RBI in the tournament.
Hines finished with 31 strikeouts and five earned runs in 19 innings of work. Hines also collected seven RBI on two doubles and a triple to lead Washington. Mya Cardwell and Zoe Spraetz had six RBI each. Allie Upton went 2-3 in the championship game and finished .417 for the tournament.
“We all played our hearts out,” Upton said. “It took all 13 of us to get here and it’s really hard to describe what we are feeling right now.”
Southern California standout Ann Buffolino collected 30 strikeouts while hitting five home runs with 11 RBI to earn Co-MVP honors with Thorkelson.
AllSportsTucson.com All-Tournament Team
Ann Buffolino, Southern California (MVP)
Jenna Thorkelson, Utah (MVP)
Tyler Mooring, Utah
McKenna Staheli, Utah
Leslie Hines, Washington
Zoe Spraetz, Washington
Mya Cardwell, Washington
Julia Pratti, Tucson Mountain
Mackenzie Moore, Alaska
Harmony Balchus, Northern California
Zuri Reeser, Oregon
Natalie Hansen, Flagstaff, Arizona
Makenna Zeiler, Nevada
Andy Morales was recognized by the AIA as the top high school reporter in 2014 and he was awarded the Ray McNally Award in 2017 and he has been a youth, high school and college coach for over 30 years. His own children have won multiple state high school championships and were named to all-state teams. Competing in hockey, basketball, baseball and track & field in high school, his unique perspective can only be found here and on AZPreps365.com. Andy is the Southern Arizona voting member of the Ed Doherty Award, recognizing the top football player in Arizona, and he was named a Local Hero by the Tucson Weekly for 2016. Contact Andy Morales at AMoralesMyTucson@yahoo.com