MISSOULA – They beat everyone in the state and the West region. Now they take on the world once again. The Zootown girls are going to Senior Softball World Series for a fourth consecutive year.

The Garden City Little League U16 squad won the regional tournament and advances to the big bracket in Delaware. Zootown lost a couple games in pool play, but avenged both setbacks by beating Oregon in the semifinals and Southern California in the championship.

The girls admit they feel the need to live up to the “Zootown” name built up over the past few years.

“It’s kind of a big pressure to do well and carry on the tradition of making it four years of winning regional,” said first baseman and pitcher Taylor Brinkman.

Story continues below

“It’s kind of nerve-racking, because you put this jersey on and you’re expected to be the best and do everything correct — I mean everything, like no errors and stuff,” added pitcher and first baseman Amber Hicketheir. “So once we put this jersey on we really have to focus down and just do our best.”

Hicketheir and Brinkman both played on last year’s Zootown team, a very young squad that followed in the footsteps of a group that won the World Series in 2015. But a much more experienced squad this summer embraces the expectations.

“More girls came out this year, so it was a little bit stronger team than last year, and a little bit older,” said Hickethier. “So that really made a huge difference.”

“Last year we went into this tournament just hoping to win one game,” said Brinkman about the West Regional tournament in Missoula. “This year was more, we had a little bit better of a chance than we did last year. The more games we play together, the better we’re meshing, so I have high hopes for us.”

Zootown will open the World Series against the Central Region champs from South Bend, Indiana on Monday night.

Garden City Little League also sends a U14 team to the Junior World Series in Kirkland, Washington. They’ll start play on Sunday.