The Gig Harbor girls Little League All-Stars will represent the state of Washington at the Little League World Series.
The team played Mill Creek for the state title last week, and rode a 12-run explosion in the first inning to a 13-1 blowout victory in Oak Harbor. Even after the huge first inning, the team maintained its focus and composure.
“We kept really level-headed, we didn’t let it go to our head,” said shortstop Camryn Dickens, the team’s cleanup hitter who’s is batting .500.
The blowout win qualifies the girls for the Little League World Series’ regional competition in San Bernadino, California. The Gig Harbor squad will play Alaska in its first game on July 18. It will also face off against Oregon, Idaho and Montana, other teams from the Western Division’s North bracket. The top two teams from the North bracket will face the top two teams out of a pool of South bracket teams from Southern California, Northern California, Arizona, Nevada and Hawaii. Out of the four teams who square off in the Western Division, only one will move on to the Little League World Series.
The Gig Harbor team has been together for three years, and the trip to California is the culmination of all the players’ hard work and effort.
“It’s a nice feeling,” Dickens, 13, said. “Especially to have such a strong team behind it. Not only having a title, but having a connected team. After three years, you really get to know the people on the team.”
As for their expectations, the girls just want to have fun. Winning would be ideal, but hanging out together in California is a reward in itself.
“We all get to hang out with each other, and we’ll have some good competition,” said first baseman and centerfielder Madisen McCutcheon, who bats second in the lineup. “We just get to hang out a lot in the nice weather down there.”
Head coach Bob Werner, also the athletic director at Gig Harbor High School, said the goal was to win the state title. Now that they’ve done that, they just want to have a good time and see where the ride will take them.
“I told the girls that this icing on the cake,” Werner said. “We felt pressure to do well; we had a strong team. We’ve never won this (state title) game. We felt like favorites. It’s flat out fun from here on out. Our expectation is to get to the regional semi-championship. We’ll take it one game at a time, anything can happen.”
Gig Harbor will face stiff competition, as the west has been historically tough, producing many Little League World Series winners lately.
“Our goal is to just play our best,” Dickens said. “It’s already so great that we’ve gotten here. We just want to really try our hardest.”
Putting on the Washington jerseys should be a thrill for the young athletes.
“It’s kind of surreal, actually,” Dickens said. “Our single team is representing the entire state. It’s really cool. I don’t think we’ve fully wrapped our heads around it.”
Dickens added that the community’s response has been tremendous, and has been a validation of the team’s hard work. Her teammate agreed.
“We’re very proud,” McCutcheon said.