PORTLAND, Ore -- It wasn't the finish they dreamed about, but the Pioneer all-stars did close out the Little League Softball World Series with a win, downing Tallmadge, Ohio, by a 6-4 count in the third-place game Wednesday afternoon.
"We weren't in the championship game like we were hoping for, but we were going to come out today and play like we were," Pioneer pitcher Raelee Weaver said.
Pioneer found itself in a 3-3 deadlock after Tallmadge put two runs across in the top of the fifth inning.
But the game wouldn't remain tied for long.
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The top of Pioneer's lineup put on a hit parade in its half of the fifth, regaining the lead in just two batters after Weaver sent a triple that rolled to the foul-pole in left field, scoring teammate Aiyana 'Bean' Taylor.
Kamdyn Fuller followed with a double into the left-field gap to bring across Weaver with what would prove to be the winning run. The Pioneer squad kept on the attack with back-to-back singles by Jada Chadwick and Sammie Cotton to expand the margin to 6-3.
"I knew if we could come up with some big hits our defense would get the outs for us," Weaver said.
"We really hit the ball well today -- that was the difference maker," Pioneer coach Bo Weaver said.
Tallmadge put together a final challenge in the sixth inning when Elizabeth Bickar slapped a ground ball into play and a Pioneer error allowed the tying run to advance to second base.
The threat was over as quickly as it started when Weaver moved out of the pitcher's circle to gobble up a bouncer on the infield before making an underhanded toss to first base to end the game.
Pioneer finished the week with a 5-1 record. The team is scheduled for a 9 a.m. return flight today to Columbus.
"We had a great time here," Weaver said. "It's an experience we'll never forget."
The Southeast champs took the lead in the first inning when Chadwick sent a fly ball into right field that gave Weaver time to scramble home from third base.
Tallmadge pulled even in the third inning on a sacrifice grounder by Bickar. The Ohio all-stars had a chance for the lead, but Pioneer's Jillian Holloway chased down a line drive in shallow right field and fired a perfect throw to first to end the inning and strand a runner at third.
But Pioneer answered quickly, regaining the lead in its half of the inning. Savannah Lundrem sparked the burst with a drive down the left-field line for a lead-off double. Two batters later, Weaver connected on a two-run shot to right field for a 3-1 lead.
The Pioneer defense turned away a pair of quality scoring chances to keep the upper hand most of the way.
Tallmadge advanced runners to second and third base in its opening at-bats only to come away empty when Weaver fielded a comebacker in the circle.
After tying the score in the fifth inning, Tallmadge loaded the bases on Gia Spitali's grounder through the left side. But Weaver came up big once more with back-to-back strikeouts to keep the runners frozen in place.
"I wasn't nervous, I just knew I had to keep getting the ball across the plate," Weaver said. "I just had to throw strikes -- blow the ball by them."