With the pressure of competing for the Senior Little League Softball World Series title now off, the Cape Coral all-star team can get back to playing the game for pride and fun.
Having lost their first two pool play games in the World Series in Sussex, Del., by a combined score of 17-4, Cape bounced back to record a 9-0 victory Tuesday over Lombardia, Italy.
The win gives Cape a 1-2 record with one pool play game remaining at 5:30 p.m. Thursday against the Southwest Regional champions from Vidalia, La. (1-1).
"There is a lot of softball to be played," said Cape manager Johnny Manetta. "For the most part something crazy would have to happen for us to make the championship finals."
The Puerto Rico team and the South Bend, Ind., team both have 2-0 records with two pool play games remaining. The top two teams in each of the two pools advance to the championship semifinals on Friday while the third, fourth and fifth teams in the pool standings square off in fifth, seventh and ninth place games on Friday. Cape is resolved to be shooting for the fifth-place prize.
"That's not the goal we set out for, but in the end they're still just kids," said Manetta. "Would we like to walk away with the trophy? Absolutely, but just being here for the second year in a row makes them winners."
Deniece Bent drove in the first run with a third-inning double against the Italians (0-3). Katie Grubb had an RBI double in the fourth and Jessica Nuccio delivered a two-out RBI single in the fifth. Alyssa Langdale, who pitched six shutout innings and allowed three hits while striking out seven, came through with an RBI single in the sixth inning. Bent closed out the shutout in the seventh inning in relief allowing two hits.
"The pressure was off them," said Manetta. "They just played for fun today. They cracked a little under the pressure, made a couple of errors. I take some responsibility for maybe putting too much pressure on them because they were here last year. We'll just have some fun the last three games. It's still a worthwhile trip for them."
Cape lost its opening game 7-4 to Central Regional champion South Bend, Ind., Sunday night, stranding 11 base runners while surrendering six runs on seven walks and just one hit in a second-inning debacle. Taylor Sense and Langdale contributed a double for Cape, which led 2-0 heading into South Bend's six-run uprising.
Cape lost to Puerto Rico 10-0 Monday night, the same team that eliminated them from contention in the Series semifinals last year.
Puerto Rico pitching limited Cape to two hits and handed pitcher Maddy Peres the loss after she allowed the first five runs. Langdale gave up five runs over 1 1/3 innings while Nuccio stopped the bleeding over the final 2 2/3 scoreless innings.
Becca Troast had both of Cape's base hits against Puerto Rico.
The Series wraps up Saturday with the semifinal losers playing for third place before the championship game scheduled for noon.