A year ago, the girls on the Mill Creek Little League All-Stars softball team took their lumps at the 10-11 District 1 softball tournament. It was a learning experience for some kids who needed to put in a lot of work to get better.
But get better they did.
One year later, Mill Creek’s 12-year-old All-Star team breezed through the district and state tournaments, going undefeated in eight games, to qualify for the upcoming West Regional tournament in San Bernardino, Calif.
From one year to the next, Mill Creek coach Page Dearborn said, the girls “just got bigger and better. And they got tougher. These girls want to dive (in the dirt) this year. Last year they didn’t want to get dirty.”
The team is comprised of top players from the three league teams in Mill Creek. The league completed its regular season in late May and the All-Star team began practicing in mid-June.
In the state championship game against Woodinville, played July 15 at Medical Lake, Mill Creek fell behind 3-0, but used a six-run third inning on the way to an 11-3 victory. Pitcher Amanda Wininger entered in relief in the first inning and threw 5 1/3 scoreless innings, giving up two hits while striking out 10.
In five state tournament games Mill Creek outscored its opponents 70-10 while batting .529. Mill Creek pitchers struck out 50 in 26 innings.
The regional tournament, which opens on Friday, will include the champions of Washington, Oregon, Idaho, Nevada, Colorado, Utah, Wyoming, Arizona, Hawaii, Alaska, northern California and southern California. Mill Creek will meet Arizona in its opener at 12:30 p.m. Saturday.
Every team will play three games in pool play before advancing to a single-elimination format with the top four teams earning first-round byes. The championship game is July 29 with the winner advancing to the Little League World Series in Portland, Ore., Aug 9-17.
In San Bernardino, Dearborn said, “I just want the girls to have the time of their lives. I want them to remember the moment and to enjoy the teams from the other states.
“I’d love to come in first and to go to the World Series with this group of girls,” she added. “They’re wonderful girls with wonderful support from their parents, and I literally want the girls to leave it all on the field and get as far as they can.”