You can’t win games without scoring runs, and getting on the scoreboard first is often a tell-tale sign for which side will be celebrating at the end of the day.
The five U.S. regional champs at this year’s Little League Softball World Series, which began Wednesday in Portland, combined to go 27-0 during their qualifying tournaments. Rounding the bases early in those games set the tone for what was to come — 24 times the champions were the team to score first, and 18 times that happened in the first inning.
“I always enjoy being the visiting team because you get the first chance to establish that lead,” Southwest coach Val Cevallos said. “Especially if you have a good offensive team, you want to get on the board. It’s a big edge. It lets the girls relax and play the game that brought them here.”
The Seguin, Texas, all-stars outscored their opponents 33-5 through the first two innings at their regional event. Cevallos puts extra emphasis on striking first, pounding home the importance of base runners, especially in the early innings.
“The objective is just to get on base any way you can do it,” Cevallos said. “We want to get the pitcher off her game, and we believe we have the type of solid hitting to move runners around.”
South Snohomish, Wash., never trailed during its run to the West Region crown, jumping on opponents by a combined 15-0 score in the first inning of their games. Coach Fred Miller features a pair of lefties at the top of the order, with Emily Strong and Haley Winckler getting that natural head start on the sprint to first base. The duo combined to hit 10 for 24 (.417) while plating nearly half of the team’s runs.
“Getting them on base early is huge,” West coach Fred Miller said. “They have been on fire, and we have the big hitters in the middle of the lineup to get them home.”
Putting together a big rally out of the gates can decide a game in a hurry. Ten times at regionals, teams put up three or more runs in their first at-bats.
“You are always nervous at the start of a game, but once you put a few runs on the board everyone relaxes and you just play the game,” Miller said.
East Region champ Warwick North out of Rhode Island enjoyed similar early success, outscoring Regional foes 27-8 through the first two innings. That included an 11-run first-inning outburst against Maryland that had the mercy rule in play before their opponents even picked up a bat.
“You don’t want to be the team chasing; you want the other side chasing you,” East coach Kevin DeTroia said. “Once you get up two or three runs it starts to get in their heads that it’s going to be tough to come back.”
That trend is holding up at the Series, where the team to score first held a 12-4 (.750) record through the first two days of round-robin action.