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BLSB: Michigan District 9 Crowned Big League Softball World Series Champions

BLSB: Michigan District 9 Crowned Big League Softball World Series Champions

KALAMAZOO, Mich. (Sept. 15, 2008) – Liz Chappell powered the Central Region Champions from Michigan District 9 (Grand Rapids) to a 2-1 victory in the 2008 Big League Softball World Series Championship with a solo home run in bottom of the seventh inning.

Vanderberg Park, in Kalamazoo, Mich., was once again the site of the Big League Softball World Series.  The competition this year was even throughout the week.  Day one featured a record four extra-inning game and two other games needed extra frames to decide the outcome, including the championship game. 

The championship game was a pitchers duel between Asia-Pacific’s Nina Jenny Pangilinan and Kara Dornbos from Citrus Park Little League.

After Asia-Pacific tallied a run in the top of the fifth inning, Central manager, Jeff Edgerle, brought Sara Driesenga in relief of Dornbos.  Meanwhile, Pangilinan, Manila’s 5-foot-3 ace, continued to induce Central into harmless pop-ups.
“If you look at her, you don’t expect her to pitch like that because she’s so thin,”
Philippine coach Anna Maria Santiago said of Pangilinan. 

“She’s a great pitcher,” Liz Chappell from Central Region champions said. “She doesn’t have a lot of speed, but she can move it.  The ball looks right there, then its not.”
In the sixth inning, Manila loaded the bases with one out. Driesenga got out of the inning with a strikeout and a harmless ground ball, keeping her team in the game and setting up some late-inning heroics.

Going into the bottom of the seventh inning, the Central Region Champions continued to trail by one run. Brittini Merchant picked her teammates up with a dramatic homerun that tied the game.

“Everyone was a little down, so I knew I had to get a big hit to get everyone fired up,” Merchant said.

Manila had little success against Driesenga after the sixth inning. 

“For Sara to come in as a 15-year old, wow,” Manager Edgerle said.  “She had them as handcuffed as they had us.”

There were 11 games decided by one run, and another game that was decided by a two-run homer. Every team won ay least one contest in the tournament.

This year’s field was comprised of six U.S. based teams; Seymour, Conn., (District 3), the East representative, Grand Rapids, Mich. (District 9), the Central  representative, Tampa, Fla., (Citrus Park Little League), the South representative,  Laredo, Texas (Gateway Little League), the Southwest representative,  Antelope Valley, Calif. (District 51), the West representative, and Kalamazoo, Mich. (District 2), the Host team. 

International teams included Manila, Philippines (City of Manila Little League), the Asia-Pacific representative, Windsor, Ontario (District 5), the Canadian representative, Brzeg, Poland (Brzeg Little League), the European representative, and San Juan, Puerto Rico (District 1), the Latin American representative.

During pool play, four teams emerged as contenders for the championship. In pool A, the Host team, District 2, finished with an unblemished record  (4-0) followed by Antelope Valley at 3-1 by virtue of an 11-inning loss to District 2. 

Pool B saw Grand Rapids finish 4-0, without allowing a single run. The Asia-Pacific Champion from Manila finished at 3-1, losing to Grand Rapids on a two-run homer.

In semifinal action, Grand Rapids come from behind to beat Antelope Valley, 3-2.  The winning run scored on a walk-off single in the seventh by Emily Holt.  In the other semifinal game, District 2 jumped out to a 2-0 lead over Manila, prompting the Philippine manager to replace the starting pitcher.  Nina Jenny Pangilinan baffled the District 2 hitters for the rest of the contest allowing her team to come back and win 4-3. 

Manila became the second international team to reach the finals following the Puerto Rico team that reached the championship game in 2003.