KIRKLAND — Dana Rowley’s performance may not have been popular among the thousand or so fans who ringed Everest Park, but it certainly was impressive.
Rowley allowed only four hits and struck out 10 to lift Tampa, Fla., to a 10-1 victory over Kirkland in the Little League Junior Softball World Series championship game on Saturday.
Tampa, the Southeast representative in the 10-team world championship tournament, finished with a perfect 18-0 team record and avenged a runner-up finish in the same tournament for 13- and 14-year-olds two years ago.
Kirkland, which finished 7-2 with both losses to Tampa, matched the best finish ever by the host team since the tournament has been played annually at Everest Park in 1999.
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Rowley, wearing orange-framed sunglasses to hide her nervousness at pitching in a world championship televised live on ESPN 2, was in control from start to finish using a devastating changeup for the majority of her strikeouts.
“We expected a big crowd to be for the host team, but what we’re best at is performing under pressure,” Rowley said. “I could never have imagined this. I was nervous, but I put on a mask when I’m out there and don’t let anything show.”
Tampa jumped out early when Kayla McGory led off the bottom of the first inning with the first of her four consecutive hits. She later scored on a wild pitch and Tampa was on its way.
McGory had three singles and a double, scored three runs, drove in three and was flawless atshortstop.
Tampa made it 5-0 in the third inning when McGory doubled home a run and scored and Rowley, who also drove in three runs, singled home two more to put the game out of reach.
“Once they got the momentum we just couldn’t get it back,” Kirkland manager Nolan Radke said. “Our goal was to get here and play on ESPN, but we all would have liked to have had a closer game so you could feel better about it. We just couldn’t get the offense going today.”
Rowley threw 20 first-pitch strikes and walked only one. Kirkland scored its only run in the fifth on a two-out RBI single by Brynn Radke.
The win was sweet redemption for Tampa manager Michael Naldes, who coached in the championship game here two years ago and was blown out by Lexington, Mich., in the championship game.
“I know how (Kirkland) feels, getting to the championship game and losing ugly because I’ve felt that pain for the last two years,” Naldes said. “To get back here and get this win in my last year of coaching is really a great way to go out. They’re a great team and I would have bet my house against a score like this, but we really played a perfect game.”