PORTLAND -- The Pioneer softball players enjoyed their long plane trip Tuesday to the Little League World Series.
The team arrived on site Tuesday afternoon after a seven-hour cross-country flight that included a brief layover in Phoenix. Upon landing, the team made a dinner stop at The Old Spaghetti Factory -- some players too exhausted to eat -- before settling in at the team hotel.
"All in all it was a nice ride getting here," assistant coach Micky Mallory said. "But there were a lot of tired girls. There were no arguments about bedtime."
Families also made the cross-country trek, some sharing the team flight, others finding more creative ways to get to Portland.
Gavin Hutchins drove through the Midwest with sleep stops in Nebraska and Colorado to watch his sister, Nyiah Kelley.
"We left Colorado at 9:30 in the morning, drove through the night, and arrived in Portland at 7:30 the next day," Hutchins said. "It's a once-in-a-lifetime experience."
The Columbus community held fundraisers and made donations to help cover traveling costs.
"Parents were making plans before we got off the field at regionals," Kelley's mother, Christy Grafals, said. "I was just like 'Wow, I can't believe my daughter is in the World Series.' Everybody was determined to be here for this."
The team arrived at the Alpenrose complex Wednesday morning and was issued their uniforms -- orange with black lettering -- before the afternoon's Opening Ceremonies.
"It's special making it here -- being the first Pioneer team to get here in more than 30 years," catcher Bean Taylor said.
"It's a chance to represent ourselves at the World Series," outfielder Savannah Landrum said. "It's exciting to play teams from different states and places we don't even know."
The Pioneer squad took the long route to Portland, surviving a long series of elimination games both at the state and regional levels to punch their ticket into the Series.
"They're not quitters," Mallory said. "They respond when their backs are against the wall."
"It's great sharing this experience with my team," said Kamdyn Fuller, who plays third base. "We don't get down on ourselves and do a good job picking each other up."
Pioneer will be the last team to get onto the field, taking on host Oregon in a pool-play game at 10 p.m. Friday.
"We have Opening Ceremonies today, but I don't think the reality will set in until Friday night," Mallory said. "It's a night game against the home team, so we're expecting a big crowd."
The coaching staff is hoping to avoid hiccups in pool play, knowing they will need a top-two finish to advance to Tuesday's semifinals.
"You play four games and you might be able to afford to lose one, but we're not looking to do that," Mallory said. "We're a really good defensive team, and that's what wins championships the same as football or anything else. We're here and we're going to have fun, but when we step between the lines it's all business."
Notes: Pioneer pitcher Cydnee Harrison finished third in the skills challenge Wednesday.
Given five pitches at a stack of tires, Harrison piled up 16 points in the contest, clinching a spot among the award winners when her final attempt clipped the top and bottom of the tire before punching through. Klara Pospechova of the Czech Republic won the event with five perfect throws -- a feat that earned her a standing ovation from the Alpenrose crowd.
Taylor tied for third place in the "Throwin' Down" challenge, which had catchers fire balls at a similar tire target near second base. She picked up six points in the event.