- The Washington Times - Wednesday, August 18, 2004

The first Virginia team to reach the Little League Softball World Series has won four straight preliminary games but faces its biggest challenge today, playing for the title against the defending champions from Waco, Texas.

“The girls seem very calm, very prepared,” said Jamie Loving, the team manager. “They should be all right as long as they stay sharp hitting the ball.”

The ESPN cable network will broadcast the championship game live at 5 p.m.

“It’s kind of neat to watch ESPN and the sports ticker at the bottom of the screen to see your team’s name float by,” Mr. Loving said.

The 14 players from the McLean Little League — 12-year-olds from either Falls Church or McLean — have gone undefeated since the tournament began last week in Portland, Ore.

The Waco team has won the past two championships and 10 of the past 12. The team advanced to the championship game on the strength of Taryn Kelm’s six-strikeout no-hitter against the Philippines team in the other semifinal, 4-0.

Mr. Loving said his players are unfazed by their opponent, despite their record.

“We’re not too intimidated by them,” he said. “They actually play a lot like us. Their pitching isn’t particularly dominant, and they rely on good hitting and defense.”

In the semifinal game against the British Columbia team, the Virginia team took a seven-run lead and won 11-6.

Lauren Sanata, who is the starting pitcher in the championship game, drove in three runs and picked up the win after pitching a perfect first inning.

“I’m not tired from pitching the other day,” said Lauren, who throws a 55-mph fastball. “I just have to throw my splitter, when the hitters are behind on the fastball and the off-speed stuff, to the better hitters.”

Michelle Tilson, of McLean, the team’s catcher, has hit nine for 19 in the tournament, nearly a .500 average. Michelle said she’s been doing nothing special, except just “seeing the ball well.”

“I’m not nervous,” she said. “I don’t think about it much, but I’m pretty excited about it. I know my friends back home are pretty excited.”

Her friends will gather to watch the championship game on television in Virginia, she said.

The team went 5-1 in the state competition, then a perfect 5-0 in the regionals.

The 10 world series teams featured six from the United States and one each from Bacolod City, Philippines; Victoria, British Columbia; Utrecht, Netherlands; and Maunabo, Puerto Rico.

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