South Beaverton's welcome-to-the-show awakening came at the behest of a Waco, Texas softball team that was unlike any the Oregon District Four champions had played.
Wired with speed, power, aggressiveness on the bases and superb pitching, the Southwest representative opened pool play with an 11-1 win over South Beaverton on Wednesday as the Little League Softball World Series began at Alpenrose Stadium.
South Beaverton made a handful of uncharacteristic mistakes defensively and didn't have its usual pop at the plate.
The defeat didn't spell elimination. With three more pool games, the District 4 champions still can advance to the elimination round. They'll play Asia-Pacific at 4 p.m. Thursday.
"We'll be fine and go get 'em tomorrow," said Darin Stout, South Beaverton assistant head coach. "We played a lot of games this year, probably around 65 or so. This team is really tight-knit. We have great player and parent support. We'll be back. We just want to bounce back. And if we put a lot of runs on the board everything will be fine and back to normal going into the weekend."
"It was a really fun opportunity, and I'm glad we get to keep going," South Beaverton's Alaina Baseleon said. "I know we can play better, but I think we all did pretty good today. We can come together more as a team and have more communication — that's something we could've done a lot better at. Everybody on our team is really close, and normally we're really good at (communicating). We just needed to express that a little bit more today."
Rather, South Beaverton experienced a sort of trial by fire. Now, the host team knows what kind of hearty competition lies ahead, specifically the teams that hail from the United States. Errors and misplays can fly against teams like Tigard/Tualatin City, but not the nation's best. Teams like Floyd Knobs (Indiana) and Waco can punish opponents and cash in on the slightest lapse.
"When we lose, it makes us want to win even more," Baseleon said. "I feel like losing makes us want to work together even more, communicate even more, fix what we did wrong and just play even better.
"I'm pretty sure the entire team was really nervous and woke up this morning and thought, 'Wow, today is the big day'. Actually getting out there and starting to play helped us get rid of our butterflies. We just have to think of (pool play) as regular softball games and just play like we normally do."
Waco came ready to play from the first pitch and brought a different level of skill and athleticism. The Texas players were tall and country strong, but also fast on the base paths. Southwest got on the scoreboard first on a groundout.
South Beaverton starting pitcher Amanda Peterson struck out Ulissa Rivas with the bases loaded for the second out. Southwest's Makayla Ramos nubbed a hit back up the middle that made it through a sea of arms and legs into center and scored for a 3-0 edge after one inning.
Yet, South Beaverton was undaunted. Third baseman Chloe Arbow walked in the top of the second, stole second and moved to third on a wild pitch. Allison Olivo made Southwest pay the price, by popping a fastball back up the middle to pull ODF to within 3-1.
Later, Arbow made a number of sweet defensive stops, including a web gem along the third-base line that prevented a run from scoring. Teammate Hailey Stutzman smoked a second-inning double, though she was nabbed trying to take third. Second baseman Kendall Stout smothered a line drive in the infield. Rachel Powers' single in the top of the fifth snapped a prolonged South Beaverton cold streak at the plate.
But Waco is considered one of the tournament favorites for good reason. Southwest scored three runs in the fifth inning. A triple by Aziyah Flores, a groundout by Ariel Munoz and an error gave Waco an 8-1 lead.
South Beaverton finished with three hits against Southwest starter Daniella Ramirez, who sat down 10 straight batters from the top of the second through the fifth.
"Some of our other games haven't been much of a competition, but this was one was fun because we had a challenge," Baseleon said. "We were happy to play a team as good as us and maybe even better. Normally our games aren't as hard that. It's a different level of competition."
South Beaverton will need to win at least one pool-play game to advance to the single elimination tournament that begins on Monday.
"We want to get to Monday night, obviously, and I think our team can do it," Baseleon said. "We just need more communication, work together, help each other get back into the game. If somebody's down, we pick them up and just do our best."