This story was updated on July 30 at 10 a.m.
Two outs were all that separated the McLean Majors all-star softball team from a return trip to the Little League World Series in Portland, Oregon. But leading 6-4 late in the Southeastern Regional championship game on Monday, McLean found itself facing some alarming obstacles: bases loaded, swelling crowd noise, a desperate opponent with its back against the wall and, worst of all, some suddenly sizzling Georgia bats.
Jada Chadwick, the Georgia all-stars’ No. 4 hitter, lined a shot to right field that dropped inches away from Jamie Wang’s outstretched glove, sending two runners home to tie the game at 6-6. After another hit advanced the lead runner to third, Kennedi Bedell knocked a sacrifice fly to Wang. Kamdyn Fuller appeared to leave third base early to beat the throw home, but the umpire called her safe on the appeal to secure the home team’s come-from-beh`ind, walk-off victory in Warner Robbins, Georgia.
“We just didn’t do enough of what was needed to win against a really good team,” McLean manager Rob Haas said. “We did enough to beat a lot of teams, but not enough to beat this team. They basically fired on all cylinders. They were making some phenomenal plays in the infield. We put the ball in play a lot, and they were able to counter it.”
Still, McLean wasn’t done just yet. The Virginia all-stars’ dominance over the weekend — they outscored their first three opponents 33-4 — meant they would need to be beaten twice on Monday to be eliminated from the tournament. Starting up the second game just 45 minutes later, though, meant Georgia was still feeding off waves of momentum while McLean reeled in its heartbreaking defeat.
Georgia turned that momentum into a 3-0 lead in the first inning and expanded it to 6-0 in the third. At the plate McLean struggled against Raelee Weaver, Georgia’s dynamo pitcher whose wicked curve ball had helped her team overcome occasional cold spells on offense throughout the tournament. Weaver went the distance in both games against Virginia, benefiting from a new little league softball rule this year that allows pitchers to throw a maximum of 12 innings in one day.
McLean’s four hits weren’t enough to prevent an 8-2 loss that vaulted Georgia to next weekend’s Little League World Series. The group from Columbus, Georgia took a similar path to get to Warner Robbins, needing to win back-to-back championship games to come away with its state title two weeks ago.
After they defeated Richmond County 4-2 in dramatic, come-from-behind fashion in the Virginia state championship game two weeks ago — their sixth state title in the last 11 years — the McLean all-stars breezed past South Carolina, North Carolina and Tennessee before running into Georgia on Monday. Their defeat thwarted a return flight to Portland, where they advanced all the way to the Little League World Series championship game last year before falling to the Arizona all-stars.
The original version of this story did not include comments from McLean manager Rob Haas.