They couldn’t hold back their smiles or their tears. They did it. They were finally going to the World Series.
The Zootown Senior League All-Stars defeated Southern California 15-10 in the Senior League Western Regional Championship at the Dale Clawson Complex at Playfair Park on Tuesday evening, advancing to the Senior League World Series in Sussex County, Delaware, with the win.
Missoula manager Kevin Miltko could hardly find words for the victory.
“Four years of hard work paid off today,” Miltko said. “Southern California (Victorville) was a fantastic team. We were up on these kids, but they were always one hit away from getting back into the game. They hit the ball well, but boy our kids came out and hit the ball well today too.”
Zootown used a 10-run third inning to get up on Southern California, but nursed the lead with continued prowess at the plate, ringing up 16 hits in the game.
Every Zootown starter contributed a hit in the win, but it was Jaime Schafer’s three-run double that started Zootown’s scoring in the third inning.
Schafer went a perfect 4 for 4 at the plate with two doubles and three RBIs, producing an MVP effort in the championship. Schafer said she wanted to win badly after having a ball get by her in Missoula Big Sky’s Class AA state final loss on a dropped third strike home run.
“It means so much to me to get this,” Schafer said. “I’m so proud of my team. We needed every single person to do this. I’m just so excited. I don’t think it’s quite hit me yet, but it definitely will.”
Starting pitcher Macey Newbary got it done for Zootown thanks to spectacular run support afforded by the third-inning run. Newbary finished the complete game with eight earned runs, but got the most important stat: the win.
“It was so nice knowing we put 10 runs on them in the third inning,” Newbary said. “I had so much cushion that I could just throw and they could hit, but as long as we stayed on them, we were going to be fine.”
Zootown got a little revenge with the win.
Southern California knocked Missoula out of the Western Regional last year in the semifinals on a walk-off home run. Zootown leaves for Delaware on Friday, with the Senior League World Series beginning Aug. 3 and running through Aug. 9.
Missoula got into the championship earlier in the day with a 15-5 win over Arizona in the semifinals. Southern California advanced with a 19-0 decision against Oregon. The championship paired the two teams for a rematch of an earlier pool round game that Zootown lost 5-4 after leading until the seventh inning.
The sun came out for the championship, creating a high of 95 degrees at game time. A few hundred fans surrounded field seven at the Dale Clawson Complex.
The rematch began tight, but Southern California struck first.
After striking out her first two batters, Newbary gave up a double to Coreena Moreno. She stole third and later scored the first run on a throwing error by Zootown to put Southern California up 1-0.
Zootown didn’t let the lead last for long. The All-Stars ran through their order nearly twice in their 10-run explosion in the third inning.
Adessa Gagner and Holly Hale led it off with back-to-back singles. Newbary drew a walk to load the bags, allowing for Schafer to take advantage.
Schafer launched a three-run double to clear the bags for Zootown and get it on the board. Callie McKillop and Kendall Rauk both dialed up RBI doubles to put Missoula up 5-1.
The bases were reloaded after Gagner drew a walk on her second time to bat in the inning. Hale produced a two-run double and a fielding error on the throw to home allowed a third run to score. Newbary and McKillop drilled two more RBI singles for Zootown to end the run and put them up 10-1.
Southern California battled back.
Bella Hernadez led off the bottom of the inning with a deep single to center. Dana Thurstan drove in Hernandez with a blast past the centerfield fence for a two-run shot, inching Southern California up 10-3.
Missoula’s bats fired up again in the fourth. Hale laced a bouncing two-run double straight to the centerfield wall to score Taylor Holmes and Gagner and go up 12-3, but Southern California wasn’t going down easy.
Annie Muriello hit an an RBI single for Southern California. Newbary let a pitch get loose on her on the next at-bat, which helped score another run. Newbary battled back from the jam, but not before giving up one more to Hernadez on a single.
Frankie Schwenk scored McKillop for Zootown with an RBI single in the fifth. Southern California’s Allison Daum scored Coreena Moreno on a sacrifice fly in the bottom of the inning to bring the score to 13-7.
Thurstan was the one who had Newbary’s number, though. Thurstan jacked a three-run home run past the right fence, her second of the day, to keep the game within striking distance for Southern California.
Zootown added some insurance in the seventh inning.
Schafer scored on a throwing error after Kaylee Rosenbaum lined a single to left. Schwenk added another run, bringing in McKillop with a sacrifice fly to go up 15-10.
It’d be enough. Two fly outs and a groundout got Zootown out of the game and into the World Series.
The best part of it all for Miltko was that his daughter on the team, Maggie, fulfilled her promise with the championship win.
“My youngest daughter, it’s her birthday today, and she woke me up this morning and says, ‘Dad, your birthday present is going to be a World Series trip.’ So if anyone is looking for some (Paul) McCartney tickets, I got two that are free now.”
And though they’d made the World Series, Miltko said Zootown wasn’t finished just yet.
“We had a bunch of goals when we started this,” Miltko said. “Our first goal was to make it to Tuesday, second goal was to win this regional and our third goal is to go to Delaware and win. We got two of our three, but it’s not good enough for us just to win this regional.”
Zootown 00(10) 210 2 – 15 16 1
S. California 102 313 0 – 10 14 7
Zootown – Newbary 1-4, Rauk 1-4, Gagner 1-4, Holmes 2-4, Schwenk 1-4, Schafer 4-4, Hardy 0-1, McKillop 3-5, Hale 3-4, Rosenbaum 0-4.
Southern California – Dana Thurstan 2-4, Alyssa Zavala 2-4, Coreena Moreno 1-4, Anissa Lopez 0-4, Allison Daum 1-4, Karina Heredia 2-4, Annie Muriello 2-4, Marissa Lucero 1-3, Bella Hernadez 3-3.
2B-Newbary, Rauk, Schafer 2, McKillop, Hale, Moreno, Zavala. HR-Thurstan 2, RBIs- Rauk, Schwenk 2, Schafer 3, McKillop 2, Hale 3, Daum, Thurstan 5, Muriello, Hernandez.
Zootown 15, Arizona 5
Zootown 053 70x – 15 13 5
Arizona 100 04x – 5 5 4
W-Kendall Rauk. L-Tylor Gil.
Zootown – Macey Newbary 1-4, Kendall Rauk 1-2, Adessa Gagner 2-4, Taylor Holmes 2-4, Megan Delaney 0-1, Frankie Schwenk 2-3, Jamie Schafer 3-3, Sierrah Hardy 1-3, Callie McKillop 0-4, Holly Hale 1-3, Shelby Shourds 0-1.
Arizona – Wylee Crumbaker 0-2, Mckenzie Amerson 0-1, Mariah Guanajuato 1-3, Tylor Gil 1-3, Analisa Ramos 3-3, Arilena Martinez 0-3, Mia Baldenegro 0-2, Kaitlyn Matthias 0-2, Tommi Gil 0-3, Marissa Marrufo 0-1, Shawnee Alvarez 0-1, Alexis Tarango 0-1.
2B-Newbary,Gagener, Schafer 2, Ramos 2. 3B- Schwenk, Hale. RBIs-Newbary 3, Rauk, Gagner 2, Holmes 3, Schafer 3, Hardy, Hale, Gil, Ramos 2.