Garden City celebrates a win at the U14 Junior Little League West Regional Championship (photo courtesy: Suzi Gaub)

KIRKLAND, Washington – The Garden City girls have proven they belong at the Junior Little League Softball World Series. Now the hard part begins.

The U14 squad from Missoula finished pool play with a 3-1 record after another close victory. Garden City held off the Latin America champs from Puerto Rico, 5-3 on Wednesday afternoon.

Puerto Rico scored first in the top of the second. Garden City answered with one run in the bottom of the second and two more in the third to take the lead. Latin America came back to tie the game with two more runs in the top of the fifth, but then one run in the bottom of the fifth and an insurance tally in the sixth gave Garden City enough to grab the win.

Garden City showed its depth in collecting 10 hits and five runs. No player drove in more than one RBI, but Keena Kay, Mackenzie Moore, Addyson Gaub, Charla Goodman, Shelby Dunwell, Mackenzie Wright, Morgan Holmes, and Josephine Marquardt-Caye all came through with clutch hits.

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Dunwell pitched the first six innings, before Grace Hardy came in to close out the victory in the seventh. They both benefited from outstanding defense. Garden City did not commit a single error, and Marquardt-Caye made a few stellar plays at shortstop. In comparison, Puerto Rico committed six errors in the contest.

Garden City will finish in second place in its pool after wins over Puerto Rico, Texas and Netherlands. The only loss came in the opener to Rhode Island, which won Pool B.

The Missoula girls will now play in the quarterfinals on Thursday at 6 p.m. Mountain Time against the host team. Kirkland finished 2-2 in Pool A.