KIRKLAND — The Mill Creek Little League All-Stars took the long road to the state majors softball championship over the weekend.
After losing to Gig Harbor in the semifinals on Thursday, Mill Creek fought its way through the losers bracket, then needed to beat undefeated Gig Harbor twice over the weekend to claim the title.
Mill Creek proved up to the task, winning 5-4 on Saturday and 7-4 on Sunday.
The victories earned Mill Creek a spot in the Western Regionals, which begin Saturday in San Bernardino, Calif. Mill Creek plays Idaho in its regional opener.
In this past Saturday’s must-win state game, Mill Creek pitchers Haley Cottingham and Emily Wininger combined to keep Gig Harbor’s hitters in check, and Sophia Stoddard (2-for-3 with a triple) and Mollie Hickman (2-for-3 with a double) provided the offensive support.
Gig Harbor scored all four of its runs in the bottom of the sixth inning and with two runners on base and only one out threatened to add more. But Mill Creek second baseman Emily Mackay snared a line drive and turned it into a double play to end the game and set up Sunday’s winner-take-all contest.
On Sunday, Hickman earned the victory on the mound with a complete-game performance. She got plenty of offensive support in the first inning as Mill Creek scored four times. The key hits were a lead-off triple by Kristina Day, an RBI double by Hickman, a two-run double by Mackay and an RBI single by Allison Endreson.
Gig Harbor scored three runs in the fourth to cut the difference to 7-4 and, like in Saturday’s game, threatened in the sixth. With two runners on and one out, Stoddard caught a line drive at first base and stepped on the bag for another game-ending double play.
Mill Creek finished the state tournament with a 5-1 record. The champions outscored their opponents 42-17.
Other members of the team include Natalie Gorski, Adele Guzman, Courtney Barbato, Anna Golebiewski, Alyssa Avalos and Kali Suits.
The team is managed by Steve Stoddard. His coaches are Ken Day and Debbie Hickman.