Cros-Lex 10U All-Stars clinch Little League Softball state title
There was no doubting the Croswell-Lexington Little League softball team came to play.
The 10U All-Stars put up 17 runs in their first game against Bay County, foreshadowing the success to come over the next five days of the Michigan Little League Softball State Tournament in Gladstone.
They swept their three pool play games, outscoring opponents 31-3. In the quarterfinal, they handed Clare a 15-0 defeat and followed up with a 6-2 victory over Grosse Pointe in the semifinal.
Five games and 55 runs later, Cros-Lex had earned its right to the state championship game on Wednesday morning.
“I think they all were just excited. They all wanted to succeed and do the best they could for their team. They never got down,” head coach Scott Young said. “Even when we made some errors or if we didn’t score until the second or third innings, I think they had a sense of knowing they’d be able to do this.
“You talk so much about game situations and kids that are gamers, we’ve got a lot of gamers.”
Three runs in the first inning of the championship gave Cros-Lex the cushion it needed as West Portage answered with a run of its own on a pair of errors in the bottom of the first.
West Portage was the only team to score against the Pioneers in pool play, but Young said he still trusted his defense as it had been a staple all tournament.
The Pioneers put up two more runs in the top of the second, which is all they would need to bring home the state title with a 5-1 victory.
“I felt excited and was filled with joy,” Olivia Young, the team’s pitcher who threw a no-hitter in the championship, said.
Along with 12 strikeouts from Olivia Young on the mound, Scott Young said his two catchers – Piper Cayce and Taylor Westendorf – kept baserunners at bay all tournament long.
“I think they were the two best catchers in this tournament. In the second game, Taylor got hit in the wrist with a ball and was unable to catch in the rest of the tournament. Piper stepped into that role and manned down the catching,” Scott Young said. “They weren’t looking to steal bases on us, that’s for sure. It’s nice when you hear the coach on the other team saying, ‘Oh boy, we’re not going to steal much here.’”
“I’ve been catching since I was in pitching machine when I was 5 years old,” Cayce said. “It felt really nice to win it all, it felt awesome.”
While capturing a state title was certainly the highlight, the girls said spending time together as friends off the field was just as fun.
“Obviously we’re going there to try to compete for a state title, but at the end of the day, these kids are still 10 years old. They still have to have fun,” Scott Young said. “If they don’t enjoy what they’re doing, they’re not going to keep doing it.”
And with only one game per day, the team had a lot of time to find new fun adventures.
“My favorite part was meeting all the different teams and hanging out with my team at the hotel,” Olivia Young said.
“We jumped off of Black Rocks [in Marquette] and we went swimming together and other fun things,” Piper Cayce said. “I like how we all get along and there’s no fighting between us.”
“It was cool doing things outside of softball, like Piper said. It was my first time really being able to experience the UP because I had only gone there once when I was 1 year old, so that was really cool,” shortstop Faith Mitchell said.
Now that the girls have brought home the state championship trophy, they said they’ve got their eyes set on a new goal: the Little League Softball World Series.
The tournament is for 11- and 12-year-olds, so they have a year or two to start preparing, and with the experience of Scott Young and his father Bob Young at the helm, there’s no doubt that they will.
In 2007 Scott Young led the 12U Cros-Lex All-Star team to a state title and a third-place finish at the World Series, and in 2011, his brother Andy Young and their father took the 14U team to the Junior League Softball World Series, in which they won 10-0 in the championship.
“My dad has hammered into us the fundamentals with these young kids…People can go out there and have them throw a ball, but if you don’t teach them how to throw the ball or how to field a grounder, you’re doing things kind of the wrong way,” Scott Young said. “We just teach them the fundamentals from the beginning and I think good things come when you do that.”
Fundamentals like bunting, which clearly paid off as Scott Young said he’d attribute nearly half of the runs his team scored in the tournament to successful bunts.
“We bunt the ball a lot. The small ball game, I think, is very successful at the 10U level. The girls field the ball cleanly, throw the ball cleanly, and the girl has got to catch it clearly, so three things have to go right in order to get a girl out after a bunt,” he said. “My dad is our bunting coach and for the last month, we’ve bunted every day. Every kid has bunted 30 or 40 balls at every practice.”
Later this week, the team will take some time off to celebrate the championship with a parade through Croswell on Friday, Aug. 6. The community is invited to join these 10 girls and their coaches:
Piper Cayce, Payton Masi, Cora McGarvie, Faith Mitchell, Olivea Pearson, Phoebe Schultz, Gray Shaw, Kinsley Westendorf, Taylor Westendorf, and Olivia Young. They are coached by Scott Young, Bob Young, Mike Mitchell, Ryan Cayce, and Pat Westendorf.