With fans at home gathered in groups of various sizes to watch the team on national television until the final out was recorded minutes before midnight, Tunkhannock advanced to the final four 12-year-old softball teams in the world Monday night.
Ella McNeff drove in one run and scored the other when, after six scoreless innings of regulation play, Tunkhannock broke through in the first extra inning and held on to defeat Bacolod City West from the Philippines, 2-1, at the Little League Softball World Series in Portland, Ore.
Kaya Hannon pitched six scoreless innings, the third time in five World Series starts that she did not allow a run, and Sydney Huff retired three of the four batters she faced in her first pitching appearance of the series.
Erin Van Ness started the winning rally with a single to lead off the seventh inning and scored the game’s first run. Elaina Kulsicavage singled to drive in McNeff with what proved to be the winning run.
Cali Wisnosky joined McNeff with two hits, then handled a foul pop-up from her catcher position to secure the game’s final out, sending Tunkhannock into Tuesday night’s semifinal.
Tunkhannock will play host Lake Oswego, the champion of Oregon’s District 4, at 9:30 p.m. Tuesday in a game that will be televised by ESPN2.
Lake Oswego defeated Layritz from Victoria, British Columbia, Canada, 4-3, in another of Monday’s quarterfinals. Tunkhannock had opened the tournament with a 2-0 win over the Canadian champions. Both Tunkhannock (4-1) and Lake Oswego (3-2) hold one-run win over the Asia-Pacific champions from the Philippines.
Hannon struck out 10 and did not walk a batter. She worked out of two bases-loaded jams in the first three innings as the Philippines team tried unsuccessfully to complete a four-game quarterfinal sweep by Pool B teams over those from Pool A, which Tunkhannock won.
Little League softball rules allow a pitcher to throw up to 12 innings in a game or day, but if the pitcher throws even one pitch in a seventh inning, she is required to have a day of rest before pitching again.
That rule left both managers with decisions to make after their teams matched six hits each through six scoreless innings. The Philippines left nine runners on base while Tunkhannock left six during that time.
Both managers made the same choice.
The Philippines switched pitchers and Tunkhannock responded with two runs.
Van Ness singled on a hard-hit ball through the left side and moved to second on a throwing error after the first out was recorded on a pop-up. Van Ness made it to third on a Hannah James grounder for the second out.
McNeff ripped a shot to the right-center field fence, easily scoring Van Ness. McNeff was interfered with by the Philippines third baseman while rounding first. Umpires conferred and awarded her third base.
Kulsicavage then singled to right field for what proved to be a necessary insurance run.
Tunkhannock manager Tim Hannon had Huff warming up late in the game and, with the two-run lead, made the move to replace his daughter in the circle.
Huff allowed a one-out single on a comebacker that she could not backhand cleanly. She also had two wild pitches, which led to the run scoring on the second out. By retiring three of the four batters she faced, however, she earned the save.
Unbeaten Eastbank, the Southeast champion from River Ridge, La., and Wheelersburg, the Central champion from Ohio, will meet in Tuesday’s other semifinal.
Tim Hannon said Sunday it takes him a while to catch up after each game as he and each of his coaches wade through dozens of texts offering congratulations.
Katie Wisnosky, Cali’s mother, has provided daily Facebook updates of the trip, with assistance from photos by Nathaniel Roote, Julianna Roote’s father, to help communicate with the team’s supporters in Tunkhannock. The fans in return have shared stories of watching the game and messages of encouragement to the team.